Trump waves to supporters as thousands rally in Washington

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WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – President Donald Trump waved to supporters in Washington D.C as he drove past them in his motorcade on Saturday (Nov 14).

Mr Trump has refused to concede the election even as his loss in the Electoral College grew this past week.

The president, who was on his way to his private golf club in Sterling, Virginia, was greeted by applause and cheers. Supporters nearby carried signs reading “Best prez ever” and “Stop the steal”.

Thousands of demonstrators fanned out for several blocks around Freedom Plaza. For most of the day, the protests appeared largely loud but orderly, but as the night wore on, clashes between the president’s supporters and counter-protesters seemed to intensify.

On Twitter, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany offered an exaggerated assessment of the event, called the Million MAGA March, claiming that one million supporters had turned out. MAGA stands for Make America Great Again.

Accounts on the ground suggested that her estimate was wildly inflated.

“It’s not like the Fourth of July or anything,” said a police officer who was stationed near Freedom Plaza at 13th and G Streets. He declined to give his name because he was not authorised to speak to the news media. “But yeah, there’s a crowd down there,” he said.

Even if short on numbers, the crowd was not lacking in enthusiasm for the president or outrage over the grievances he has raised over the past four years.

Ms Zenaida Ochoa, 46, a Virginia resident originally from Arizona, said she had been following Mr Trump since she was a child. “He’s not perfect,” said Ms Ochoa, who added that she supported Mr Trump partly because of his immigration policies.

Mr Trump’s brief visit on Saturday came one day after the last two states of the election were called. President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia to finish with a total of 306 electoral votes – the same number that Mr Trump won in 2016 and called a landslide – and Mr Trump won North Carolina, for a total of 232 electoral votes.

Mr Trump has refused to concede the race to Mr Biden, and continues to falsely insist he would have won if not for what he has claimed were widespread voter irregularities.

In fact, top election officials across the country have said that there is no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome. In addition to the Million MAGA March, demonstrations of the Trump faithful in Washington on Saturday included a Stop the Steal rally and a Women for Trump event.

Supporters of the president travelled from across the country to participate.

“I’m blown away,” said Ms Rachel Williams, a county worker from Jasper, Alabama, who got in a car with three friends at 5.30am on Friday to attend the march in Washington. “I’m encouraged that America is not going to just lie down.”

Ms Williams said there had been no fraud in her county – she registers voters as part of her job – but voiced suspicion over the election results and suggested that there might have been fraud elsewhere.

A group of federal, state and local election officials declared flatly this week that the election “was the most secure in American history” and that there was “no evidence” any voting systems were compromised.

By about noon, demonstrators began marching towards the Capitol, streaming down Pennsylvania Avenue for over an hour, rallying again in the area around the Capitol building and outside the Supreme Court.

“We want Trump to know that we love everything that he did, especially for Hispanic people,” said Mr Anthony Cabassa, 33, who was clutching a flag that read “Defiant”.

“He woke us up,” said Mr Cabassa, who had flown in from Los Angeles. “Whether you were on the left or on the right, he woke a lot of people up.”

Later in the day, as many Trump supporters began trickling towards Union Station, more than 40 men who identified themselves as members of the Proud Boys, an extremist organisation, began to march back towards Freedom Plaza. The men, dressed in yellow and black, pumped their fists in the air and chanted “Trump 2020”. Some wore ballistic vests.

A few skirmishes broke out in the afternoon among Trump supporters and counter-protesters critical of the administration.

On 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, tensions flared between a crowd of Trump supporters criticising antifa and a smaller group of counter-protesters, including a mother and a child.

As the night wore on, videos on social media showed fistfights breaking out, the police trying to keep the groups apart by forming barricades with their bikes, and protesters amassing near Freedom Plaza, where people lit small fires.

In the evening, at the P.J. Clarke’s restaurant near the White House, counter-protesters threw bottles and fireworks at a group of Trump supporters, a USA Today reporter said.

Shortly before 9pm, a group of Trump supporters outside a hotel less than a mile from the White House said an altercation had broken out between Trump supporters and others they described as antifa. News reports indicated that a man had been stabbed, and the police officers on site shortly after the incident said they could not confirm how severe the injuries were.

Some Trump supporters, standing outside the Embassy Suites Hotel, said the two groups had converged on the corner of 10th Street and New York Avenue in northwest Washington. They said the melee had broken up quickly after police intervened.

“You could feel the intensity,” said Mr Damien Courtney, 24, a Trump supporter from Tennessee. “It was nerve-racking.”

Bastion Balance Seoul.