As the nation waited for officials in battleground states to finish counting the votes on Wednesday, sporadic clashes and demonstrations popped up in some cities across the country, although the streets remained mostly free of the widespread unrest some had feared.
In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown activated the National Guard after a march through downtown Portland turned destructive and violent. Humvees and soldiers in military uniforms sped through streets strewn with broken glass from smashed shop windows. Officials said at least 10 people were arrested, including one man who was suspected of throwing a Molotov cocktail at police officers. The man was also carrying a rifle, knife, and an improvised explosive device and was wearing a tactical vest, a police spokesperson said.
In downtown Phoenix, a crowd of about 200 demonstrators supporting President Donald Trump gathered outside the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center where workers were furiously counting ballots. After some in the crowd brandished guns, sheriff’s deputies blocked off the building’s entrance and stood guard.
“Count the votes,” the crowd shouted, as well as: “We want Trump.”
The crowd was rallied to the county building by pro-Trump media personality Mike Cernovich and Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who urged followers on social media to head into the county to assure all ballots were counted. The call to action came as Arizona became one of the final battlegrounds in the presidential election, one where the outcome was still in doubt with just a handful of outstanding ballots left to count.
Livestreams showed some protesters carrying rifles as law enforcement began to form a line to prevent anyone from walking in. The crowd remained peaceful, but additional deputies were reportedly brought into the building, and journalists who were inside the building were escorted out through another exit because of the size of the crowd.
Neither the sheriff’s office nor a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Elections Department would answer questions from BuzzFeed News on whether the decision to clear the building was due to safety concerns.
Demonstrators called on Trump supporters to return to the building Thursday.
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If they were chanting “count the votes” in Arizona, in Michigan, supporters of the president were chanting the opposite. “Stop the count,” they yelled in Detroit outside the TCF Center where thousands of mail-in ballots were still being counted even after most observers had moved the state’s electoral votes into Biden’s column.
The Trump supporters were protesting, they said, that not enough Republican monitors were allowed into the ballot processing room to ensure the count’s integrity. Under state rules, Republican, Democratic, and nonpartisan election challengers are each allowed to have 134 people inside the room where votes are being counted. In Michigan, they can stand behind processing tables, challenge the actions of election inspectors, and inspect other election materials. The Detroit Free Press reported that some 400 challengers, including 134 Republicans, were at the center.
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In New York, a large group of demonstrators gathered near Central Park. Like demonstrations that have erupted across the US for the past year, protesters focused on police violence against Black people as they marched along streets, and held a sit-in at an East Village intersection as speakers addressed the crowd.
Videos from the scene showed police and demonstrators clashing, with police shoving people to the ground and using bicycles to block their path.
And in Denver, police arrested four people after clashing with a group of protesters as they marched downtown.
About 100 people gathered in Cheesman Park as part of a demonstration against fascism. Videos from the gathering showed protesters burning a "thin blue line" flag and a Trump flag in the park before marching through the streets.
Police later deployed tear gas and pepper balls as some marchers set a fire in a trash can and smashed a window at a payday loan office.