A wide array of far-right groups and Trump supporters are planning to descend on the nation’s capital Saturday amid heightened tensions over the results of the presidential election.
The mix of demonstrators gathering in downtown Washington, D.C., where they’ll be met with counterprotesters, is sparking fears that the events could turn violent.
The main rally — known by various unofficial names such as the Million MAGA March, Stop the Steal DC and March for Trump — appears focused on showing an outpouring of support for President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE as he refuses to concede the race to President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE, citing unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.
Organizers and right-wing media figures, along with the White House officials, have predicted a massive turnout, though similar events during Trump’s presidency have fizzled out.
Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick Hannity90 percent of full-time Fox Corp. employees say they're fully vaccinated: executive The Memo: California recall exposes the limit of Trump's GOP Republicans divided on Trump's strength as possible 2024 candidate MORE, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Trump have all promoted the rally.
“Heartwarming to see all of the tremendous support out there, especially the organic Rallies that are springing up all over the Country, including a big one on Saturday in D.C.,” the president said in Friday afternoon tweet that was labeled by Twitter. “I may even try to stop by and say hello. This Election was Rigged, from Dominion all the way up & down!”
The only group to receive a permit by the city was Women for America First. The permit was issued for 10,000 people at Freedom Plaza on Saturday at noon. The group, spearheaded by former Tea Party activist Amy Kremer, was one of the first to promote the March for Trump.
Kremer told USA Today that her organization is not coordinating with any groups planning activities in D.C. on Saturday.
Promotion for the rally started among various online groups that support Trump.
“Although I'm sure this rally will have Trump supporters who do not wish to cause harm, are fully intent on protesting peacefully and lawfully, the reason this rally is happening is because the some extreme elements of the right wing movement have come together to organize it,” Jared Holt, a visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, told The Hill.
The conservative outlet Right Side Broadcasting Network pushed the Million MAGA March moniker.
Nick Fuentes, who has a history of making anti-Semitic and racist remarks, has advertised the rally to his “Groyper Army,” while Stewart Rhodes, head of the anti-government militia group the Oath Keepers, has said he will be in D.C. and that he has armed men standing by outside of the nation’s capital.
The head of self-described “western chauvinist” Proud Boys, known for instigating skirmishes, posted on Telegram that they will have a presence in D.C. on Saturday as well.
The group garnered national attention after Trump said at a presidential debate in September that they should “stand back and stand by.” After widespread backlash, he said the Proud Boys should “stand down.”
Supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory — who believe in the baseless claim that Trump is working to expose a child-eating cabal of elites in the media and Democratic politics — have also said they will be joining the main rally.
Saturday’s events are expected to draw of smattering of other right-wing figures, including Infowars’s Alex Jones, conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, conservative activist Scott Presler, and Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.
But the majority of rally participants on Saturday are expected to be more traditional and mainstream Trump supporters, experts said.
“Even in their own party they’re very fringe,” Holt said. “I think what we’re going to see is these larger crowds of people who are going to this event because it's been plugged by Kayleigh McEnany, Sean Hannity, sort of mainstream GOP figures. Mixed up there there is going to be members of these extremist groups and militia movement groups which … is going to make the whole situation from the outside look kind of confusing.”
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department said authorities will be monitoring and assessing the situation as it unfolds. The spokesperson also noted that D.C. law prohibits open carry near rallies and that “if anyone is found to be in violation of these laws, they would be subject to arrest.”
Researchers warn that there are elevated risks of violence at the rally, especially given the Proud Boys’s penchant for brawls and threats from militia groups, though groups like the Oath Keepers have not followed through on previous threats.
“This rally comes at a time where passions among Trump supporters are extremely high,” Holt said. “And some of the more extreme groups that are planning to show up here have been speaking in increasingly exaggerated rhetoric, talking about coups and civil wars.”
While the disparate groups expected to be in attendance Saturday have distinct goals, according to Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone, one unifying desire is to back Trump after his election loss.
“There's a core of people that believe that if they show up that will either inspire Trump into ascending into a more aggressive posture, or that it will sort of ward off, or signal to all the others ... that Trump has this massive show of support,” he told The Hill.
The risk of violence becomes more likely if the right-wing antagonists are able to provoke responses from counterprotesters.
The They/Them collective has planned a “F*ck MAGA” counterprotest at the Supreme Court when the Trump-focused rally is slated to kick off, while local antifacist group All Out DC has scheduled another demonstration nearby.
In addition to local police, D.C. Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserBiden to GOP governors planning vaccine mandate lawsuits: 'Have at it' Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program Biden nominates DC regulator to federal energy commission MORE (D) has said the District will be keeping a close eye on planned activities.
Christopher Rodriguez, director of homeland security and emergency management for the city, said that officials are expecting relatively small turnout.