Protestors marched and rallied across the US on Wednesday as the presidential election remained too close to call. Most demonstrations were large, peaceful events organized by progressive groups calling on officials to “count every vote”. But in some cities, including Phoenix and Detroit, Trump supporters converged on vote-counting centers.
In New York City, thousands marched past boarded-up luxury stores on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, as ballots were still being tallied in key battleground states.
Similar protests took place in at least a half-dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and San Diego. Demonstrators gathered outside Dallas City Hall in Texas, and in Chicago, protesters demanding a complete count marched through downtown and along a street across the river from Trump Tower.
Many of these events were organized by local groups affiliated with Protect the Results, a coalition of grassroots organizations and labor unions.
In Phoenix a group of pro-Trump protesters, some of them armed, gathered outside the Maricopa county election center, where sheriff’s deputies were guarding both the outside of the building and the counting inside.
Many wore “Make America great again” hats and some carried signs baselessly alleging fraud. The Associated Press and other news organizations, including the conservative network Fox News, declared Biden the victor in Arizona yesterday, but Trump has been inching closer to a tie. Demonstrators chanted: “Shame on Fox.”
Despite reports that counting would be halted as a result of the demonstration, county officials confirmed that ballots would continue to be tallied into the night. Reporters, however, were asked to leave as the pro-Trump protesters crowded outside.
The incident echoed an earlier event in Michigan, when a rightwing, anti-lockdown group crowded outside a ballot-counting site in Detroit. The small cluster of Trump supporters descended on the center amid chants of “Stop the count!”. (In Phoenix, where Biden’s lead was shrinking, Trump supporters shouted the opposite.)
Police made some arrests at the various demonstrations, including 50 in New York. Dozens of protesters were also arrested in Minneapolis after demanding action on a range of issues including policing, climate change and immigration, according to local media reports.
In Portland police declared riots, arrested 11 people and seized fireworks, hammers and a rifle, as Oregon Governor Kate Brown activated the National Guard. “All of the gatherings that were declared riots were downtown,” a Portland Police spokesman told Reuters in an emailed statement. “There have been 11 arrests tonight and we have not received any reports of injuries.”
The demonstrations came as Donald Trump threatened to sue his way to the presidency, launching lawsuits on Wednesday to halt vote-counting in three battleground states. It is not clear that the challenges will alter the election result.
Trump has repeatedly, falsely insisted without evidence that there are major problems with the vote count – and demanded that states that he is in danger of losing stop counting ballots.
Earlier, the Republican campaign filed suit in a bid to halt the count in Michigan, demanding the Democratic secretary of state allow in more inspectors.
The secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, said the “stop the count” protesters outside the counting center in Detroit were a distraction and warned that people would need to “push back against the misinformation that we believe will escalate potentially in the days ahead”.
“As for the folks who showed up in the late hours outside to cause a lot of distraction and make a lot of noise, if they thought they were going to intimidate or stop anyone from doing their job inside the TCF Center, they don’t know Detroit,” Benson said.
Benson defended the ballot-counting as “transparent” and said the Trump campaign’s lawsuit against Michigan, alleging that the campaign had “not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations”, was “frivolous”.
The prolonged task of counting this year’s deluge of mail-in votes had raised fears of widespread civil unrest, but so far that scenario has not come to pass.
On Tuesday night, scattered protests broke out after voting ended, stretching from Washington DC to Seattle, but there was no significant violence.
Lois Beckett and agencies contributed reporting