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Civil unrest fears grow as protests hit vote-counting battleground states

Unrest across the country appears to be on the rise as protesters hold more demonstrations over ongoing vote counts in several key battleground states that will decide the outcome of a heated presidential race.

The Biden and Trump campaigns have diverged on their approach to ballot counting, with President TrumpDonald TrumpGaetz was denied meeting with Trump: CNN Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills Police in California city declare unlawful assembly amid 'white lives matter' protest MORE filing lawsuits to stop counting ballots and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFederal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills Biden to meet Monday with bipartisan lawmakers about infrastructure Jill Biden gives shout out to Champ, Major on National Pet Day MORE emphasizing the importance of having all votes counted.

The dueling rhetoric has spilled out into the streets of various cities, where Biden supporters can be heard chanting “count the votes,” while Trump supporters call to “stop the count.”

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Anti-Trump protesters took to the streets in New York, Minneapolis and other cities on Wednesday. Some demonstrators in Minneapolis were reportedly arrested after some participants tried to block a freeway.

That same day, Trump supporters in Phoenix protested outside an election center conducting a count of crucial mail-in ballots that could help steer the presidency toward Biden. The crowd, which was reportedly around 150 strong, claimed without evidence that the official overseeing Maricopa County’s elections was failing to count ballots for Trump.

The Associated Press and Fox News have projected Biden as the winner in Arizona, though several networks have not followed suit.

If Trump loses in Arizona, Biden will have an additional path to winning the White House, even if he doesn’t win Pennsylvania. If Biden wins Arizona and Nevada, where votes are still being counted, he will be the projected winner with 270 electoral votes, the magic number needed to secure the presidency.

Signs of unrest also unfolded at a poll center in downtown Detroit when people were denied entry into the TCF Convention Center, which was reportedly already at capacity. Protesters who had gathered outside the area where ballots were being counted shouted “Let us in” and “Stop the count” while they pounded on the doors and windows, according to reports.

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Protesters had reportedly pounded on the windows earlier in the day when security officials tried to drape the windows after ballot counters said they felt intimidated by demonstrators trying to take pictures or videotape them.

The president’s allies also got involved. Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Cruz on Boehner: 'I wear with pride his drunken, bloviated scorn' MORE (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, attended a “Stop the Steal” rally in Harrisburg, Pa., where Trump holds a narrow lead over Biden.

At times, the post-election protests have turned violent.

In Portland, Ore., where protesters rallied peacefully against Trump’s efforts to stop vote counts elsewhere, a separate group of demonstrators marched through downtown, smashing shop windows and facing off with law enforcement officials and National Guard troops as they protested against police brutality and racial injustice, according to reports.

In Florida, one poll worker described his experience in a Sun Sentinel opinion piece, writing, “I signed up knowing I would interact with a thousand or more voters each day, but I didn’t sign up to be coughed at and spit upon by mask-refusers."

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfAmbitious House lawmakers look for promotions Follow the science: Charter school expansion is a rising tide that lifts all boats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Split screen: Biden sells stimulus; GOP highlights border MORE (D), whose state has become a kind of ground zero for protests and demonstrations since Tuesday, is pledging to push forward with vote counting, despite GOP calls to end the process.

“Pennsylvania is going to count every vote and no amount of intimidation will stop our dedicated election officials in our municipalities,” Wolf said in a statement Thursday. “As a country and a commonwealth, we must reject efforts to intimidate election workers and prevent votes from being counted.”

Trump, meanwhile, has gone from prematurely declaring victory in the overall election to claiming people are trying to “steal” the election from him.

The president has sent conflicting messages on the vote count as well. He has called for voting to be halted in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where mail-in voting is expected to help Biden, but he is encouraging the vote counting to continue in states like Arizona where he is gaining ground.

“STOP THE COUNT!” the president tweeted Thursday morning.

Trump and his campaign have suggested foul play in metro areas of battleground states where mail-in ballots are likely to favor Biden.

Many of those ballots in key areas like Arizona's Maricopa County and Georgia's Fulton County — the most populous counties in each state — were still being counted heading into Thursday.

“Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled. Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the 'pollsters' got it completely & historically wrong!” the president tweeted Wednesday morning.

Trump has repeatedly claimed without providing evidence that ballots were secretly being dumped in support of Biden in key swing states, continuing rhetoric that many Republicans have long worried would deter GOP voters from using the safe voting method during the pandemic.