There have been two “Stop the Steal” rallies in Washington, D.C. since President Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. But this time, for Wednesday’s effort to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory, they’re bringing out the big guns.
That’s figuratively and literally: Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the right-wing street gang The Proud Boys, was arrested in D.C. Monday while allegedly possessing two Proud Boys-branded high-capacity rifle magazines. Tarrio was released Tuesday but ordered to stay out of D.C. Plenty of other extremist groups and assorted cranks are expected in his place.
After stabbings, street brawling and the burning of Black Lives Matter banners at the previous pro-Trump demonstrations, the mayor has called in the National Guard this time around. D.C. police have placed fliers restricting guns where demonstrators are gathering. The city is bracing for violence.
“It has been publicly reported that several groups — including some that promote hate on a racial and religious basis — will be traveling to the District for demonstrations on January 5 and 6,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine warned Monday night.
“Make no mistake: many of these individuals have stated that they are coming to the District to provoke residents and wreak havoc.”
The chaos will be, at least in part, at Trump’s urging. The President is expected to address the crowd Wednesday morning, a White House spokesperson confirmed to TPM Tuesday.
That follows weeks of build-up: Last month, Trump said — or demanded, depending on your reading — that Wednesday’s events “will be wild!”
One group under the “Stop the Steal” banner ran with the phrase, naming themselves “Wild Protest.” “Congress cannot certify this fraudulent Electoral College,” the group’s website reads.
Republicans in both chambers of Congress have fueled the delusion by laying out a plan to object to the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College win on Wednesday, and several members and members-elect of Congress are expected to rally with the crowd outside.
That includes Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), the close Trump ally and supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory. “Trump voters believe that this election was stolen and the evidence that will be presented on January 6th is overwhelming,” a spokesperson for the incoming congresswoman told TPM.
Overwhelming it isn’t: Dozens of judges have laughed Trump and his allies’ claims out of courts for months. To the dead-enders, that’s just one more reason for Congress to step in.
“We have a system that gives the political branch the right to look at that,” Ed Martin, president of Phyllis Schlafly Eagles and one of Wednesday’s speakers, told TPM Wednesday.
“We are not the system that says that the judges are the only ones, or in fact the final ones, to look at this — it’s precisely the opposite,” Martin said. “In fact, the people that want a judicial class to run the country, to be the final judge, that’s the progressive movement for the last 100 years.”
“Plus, that’s what Communists do,” he added.
As the city braces for unrest, some attendees have warned authorities not to mess with them. “We may pitch tents and shutdown DC if we are violated. Wouldn’t leave until a negotiated settlement (treaty),” the right-wing activist and Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander tweeted Tuesday, referring to the city’s treatment of Trump supporters.
Then, he quoted Trump’s old instructions to the Proud Boys: “Stand back & stand by!”
Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, expressed concern that the Proud Boys’ antidemocratic tactics — they’re known for street brawling and mayhem — may be seeping into more mainstream pro-Trump circles that will be present in D.C. on Wednesday.
“Because of Trump’s loss, there is a growing part of the right [that] is losing faith in the democratic process and seems to be drawn to more authoritarian means of practicing politics — including threats, intimidation, and violence,” she told TPM.
This time around, the Proud Boys are intent on blending in, casting aside their traditional black-and-yellow uniforms in favor of going “incognito,” as Tarrio wrote online before his arrest.
It’s hard to tell if that’s a convenient excuse for poor projected attendance or an actual threat, but the message board chatter for the Proud Boys and other extremists groups is concerning — full of strategizing about how to smuggle weapons into the notoriously anti-gun district.
We've got photos coming out of Trump supporters in Washington already, including this guy pic.twitter.com/C7abemXoVD
— Jared Holt (@jaredlholt) January 5, 2021
“Go in armed to the teeth – only way to avoid police/national guard attacking patriots is to go in armed so heavy they cannot risk a fight,” one commenter on the pro-Trump forum thedonald.win wrote yesterday. “EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE ARMED WITH RIFLE, HANDGUN, 2 KNIVES AND AS MUCH AMMO AS YOU CAN CARRY.”
Trump’s violent devotees don’t speak for the entire caravan descending on Washington. But after four years of the President turning up the temperature, D.C. feels like a sauna.
And the President’s followers have their marching orders. The Trump forum’s top post Wednesday was simple: “DADDY SAYS BE IN DC ON JAN. 6TH.”