Wednesday’s protests could get ugly. But officials should be able to handle it — without the armed forces.
One day before Congress votes to certify that Joe Biden won the presidential election, Trump supporters who refuse to accept the reality of his defeat demonstrated in Washington again. The city is bracing for potentially violent protests, egged on by President Trump himself.
All Tuesday afternoon, people bundled against the cold but free of masks arrived in downtown Washington for what they see as a last stand for Trump, who has continued to falsely assert that the election was stolen from him.
Though many Republican lawmakers, all 10 living former defense secretaries and election officials across the country have said Trump should stop attempting to overturn the results of the election, his refusal to do so has only energized his followers. One Wednesday demonstration has a National Park Service permit for up to 30,000 people. Trump said on Twitter that he will speak at 11 a.m. Wednesday and praised those who were echoing his inaccurate version of events in the streets.
Today, as President Trump’s supporters gather in Washington for what could be several days of violent protests, senior government officials appear confident that the chaotic situation can be handled by the D.C. police, federal law-enforcement agencies and the National Guard — without requiring any use of regular-duty military troops.
Worries about Wednesday’s gathering have been fueled by Trump’s call for demonstrations — “will be wild,” he tweeted — to protest Congress’s expected certification of the electoral college victory of President-elect Joe Biden. Some officials feared that if the protests led to violent confrontations, Trump might seek to invoke the Insurrection Act to maintain order and protect the 74 million supporters he falsely contends have been fraudulently disenfranchised by Biden’s victory.
The protests could indeed get nasty, and the next few days may be very disorderly. But officials, led by some senior members of the administration, have worked hard to prevent a worst-case scenario in which Trump might seek to overturn the election result by deploying the uniformed military and imposing martial law.
Planning for this week’s protests has been coordinated by an interagency team headed by acting attorney general Jeffrey A. Rosen and acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller, joined by the secretaries of homeland security and interior and backed by Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. The team has been in regular contact and has drawn up detailed, written rules of engagement to avoid mistakes that might inflame the situation.
The FBI estimates that the protesters who assemble at the Ellipse and other march sites Wednesday will total 10,000 to 20,000 — well below the 50,000 to 100,000 touted on some pro-Trump websites. To keep order, the D.C. government can call on about 3,800 members of its police force, supplemented by thousands of officers from the Capitol Police, the U.S. Park Police, the Federal Protection Service and other units.
Based on the materials of Washington Post