Thousands of Joe Biden supporters marched Wednesday evening in New York to demand every vote in the tight presidential election be counted, as supporters of US President Donald Trump protested in Detroit and Phoenix demanding a halt to ballot counting in the key states of Michigan and Arizona.
New York demonstrators were peaceful and spanned generations, with marchers heading from Fifth Avenue toward Washington Square Park in the heart of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.
In New York’s Democratic stronghold, demonstrators were hopeful but wary of calling it for their candidate Biden just yet.
“We need to count every vote in this election,” said Sarah Boyagian, part of the Protect The Results Coalition behind the demonstration organized under tight police supervision.
“Donald Trump has claimed the election before every vote is counted and we are sending the message that that is not acceptable,” the 29-year-old told AFP.
John Fraser, 47, said he’s “worried Trump is going to void the vote.”
“I am not sure Biden has won, we have to wait until all votes are counted,” said the software developer, adding: “I am worried that democracy is hanging by a thread right now.”
Similar peaceful protests — sometimes about the election, sometimes about racial inequality — took place in at least a half-dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and San Diego.
A protest of Trump supporters outside a ballot processing center in Detroit, however, was far more tense.
Cries of “stop the count!” rang out in the city in Michigan — where US media declared Biden the victor — as Trump’s campaign announced a lawsuit to try and suspend the vote count, claiming its team was denied proper access to observe vote counting.
Social media clips showed protestors with fists raised prevented from entering the center by police.
— Salwan Georges (@salwangeorges) November 4, 2020
With Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, Biden now has a total of 264 — six shy of the magic number of 270 needed to win the US presidency, according to US network projections.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, insisted both parties and the public had been given access to the tallying, “using a robust system of checks and balances to ensure that all ballots are counted fairly and accurately.”
Michigan has been on edge for months over fears of political violence. Anti-government protesters openly carried guns into the state Capitol during protests over coronavirus restrictions in the spring, and six men were arrested last month on charges of plotting to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Wearing Trump gear, the Phoenix protesters filled much of the parking lot at the Maricopa County election center, and members of the crowd chanted, “Fox News sucks!” in anger over the network declaring Joe Biden the winner in Arizona.
According to The New York Times, some of the 150 demonstrators were carrying firearms.
Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican and staunch Trump supporter, joined the crowd, declaring: “We’re not going to let this election be stolen. Period.”
However, observers from both major political parties were inside the election center as ballots were processed and counted, and the procedure was live-streamed online at all times.
Several sheriff’s deputies blocked the entrance to the building. And the vote-counting went on into the night, Maricopa County Elections Department spokeswoman Megan Gilbertson said.
Two top county officials — one a Democrat, the other a Republican — issued a statement expressing concern about how misinformation had spread about the integrity of the election process.
“Everyone should want all the votes to be counted, whether they were mailed or cast in person,” said the statement signed by Clint Hickman, the GOP chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and Democratic Supervisor Steve Gallardo. “An accurate vote takes time. … This is evidence of democracy, not fraud.”
Meanwhile, in Portland, Oregon, which has been a scene of regular protests for months, Gov. Kate Brown called out the National Guard as demonstrators engaged in what authorities said was widespread violence downtown, including smashing windows. Protesters in Portland were demonstrating about a range of issues, including police brutality and the counting of the vote.
“It’s important to trust the process, and the system that has ensured free and fair elections in this country through the decades, even in times of great crisis,” Brown said in a statement. “We are all in this together.”
Richard March came to an anti-Trump demonstration in Portland despite a heart condition that makes him vulnerable to COVID-19.
“To cast doubt on this election has terrible consequences for our democracy,” he said. “I think we are a very polarized society now — and I’m worried about what’s going to come in the next days and weeks and months.”
On Election Night, scattered protests broke after voting ended, stretching from Washington, DC, to Seattle, but there was no widespread unrest or significant violence.
The prolonged task of counting this year’s deluge of mail-in votes raised fears that the lack of clarity in the presidential race could spark unrest.