Sporadic fights broke out between pro-Trump and anti-Trump protesters after sunset Saturday. WRC-TV reported that four people were taken to a hospital with stab wounds, and the Metropolitan Police Department told the station that 23 people were arrested.
Trump tweeted his apparent surprise Saturday morning at rallies, publicly known for weeks: “Wow! Thousands of people are forming in Washington (DC) for Stop the Steal. I didn’t know about this, but I’ll be watching! #MAGA. “
Trump left the White House around noon to go to the Army and Navy football game at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. When the Marine One helicopter passed over a rally on the National Mall, the cheers rose.
Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser recently pardoned by Trump, was speaking from the stage at the time.
“That’s great. Imagine getting in a helicopter and taking a fun ride around Washington,” said Flynn, whose pardon erased his conviction for lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation.
At a pro-Trump rally in Washington a month ago, Trump thrilled his supporters as he passed in his caravan on the way to his Virginia golf club.
On Saturday, police took further steps to keep the two sides separate, closing off a wide swath of downtown to traffic and sealing off Black Lives Matter Plaza.
But while Saturday’s demonstrations, including one at Freedom Plaza downtown, were smaller than those on November 14, they drew a larger contingent of the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist group known for inciting street violence. Some wore bulletproof vests as they marched through the city.
The group saw its profile raised after Trump in September told them to “stand back and stay out.”
After the demonstrations ended, central Washington quickly turned into crowds of hundreds of Proud Boys and combined forces of antifa and local black activists, both sides seeking a confrontation in an area flooded with police. At dusk, they clashed on opposite sides of a street, with multiple lines from the city police and the Federal Park Police, some in riot gear, keeping them apart.
A proud boy yelled, “You cops can’t be everywhere!” The Proud Boys later dispersed.
The Antifa activists were also more organized this time, with their own corps of cyclists to form bicycle walls to match those of the police.
Hours earlier, a group of about 50 men dressed in black and yellow from the Proud Boys surrounded the perimeter of Black Lives Matter Plaza, where about 200 anti-Trump protesters were demonstrating.
They sang vulgar slogans and at one point began singing “Jingle Bells.” Apparently they were under orders not to engage in conversations with those they disturbed. A man who was responding to people was yelled at and told “Don’t interact!”
The assembly on the National Mall, called the “March on Jericho,” was described on its website as a “prayer rally” with speakers “praying for the walls of corruption and electoral fraud to fall.”
The Freedom Plaza rally also featured a series of speakers who brought the discredited allegations of voter fraud to a receptive audience.
Sylvia Huff, a protester who came from Gloucester, Virginia, to show her support for Trump, said the legal defeats had not affected her belief that he won the election.
“I think the courts were also at stake,” he said. The Supreme Court, where three of the nine justices were appointed by Trump, “simply feared a political backlash,” he said.
Speakers included Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, who urged protesters not to surrender even after the Supreme Court decision on Friday. He said he wanted to send Trump a video and picked up his phone, signaling the flag-waving crowd to shout “Stop the Steal.”
– Reported with Associated Press