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Trump Supporters Gather For 3rd Rally In D.C. Since November's Election


It's a tense day in Washington, D.C. Congress is meeting to certify the election results, and thousands of President Trump's supporters are gathering in the city to reject those results. This is the third time they've rallied in D.C. since the November vote. But this time, the language they're using is more violent. NPR's Hannah Allam has been watching this one. Good morning, Hannah.


KING: You were at the first two rallies. What's different this time around?

ALLAM: Well, Noel, it's been kind of like watching a play unfold in three acts. You know, at the time of the first rally, right after the vote in November, there were still open legal challenges, so Trump supporters were hopeful, celebrating. At the second last month, it was clear Joe Biden had won, but that reality hadn't really sunk in in, so there was still defiance but also growing anger. Now, today, act three, there are no more cards to play within the system, so now it's more than anger. We're seeing rage, threats of violence, and this one feels less like a protest and more like a last stand. And, you know, we've seen the president really leading the pack, embracing this delusion of a stolen election and promoting conspiracies and disinformation really nonstop and even urging his followers to rise up, fight like hell, as he put it, stopping just short of endorsing violence. So, yeah, the stakes do seem higher this time around. We're two weeks away from Inauguration Day, and we've got a president who's saying, quote, "They're not taking this White House."

KING: You are going to be out on the streets today covering this rally. Who do you expect to see? Who's going to be there?

ALLAM: We expect kind of the same crowd that we've seen at previous rallies. There is always a main show, some of the big names on the right-wing speaker circuit usually delivering a mix of sort of conspiracy and fearmongering about the election, 2nd Amendment, socialism, even vaccines now. And then there's always the sideshow, you know, extremists pop up with big social media followings or podcasts, QAnon figures, white supremacists, militia-style groups, and then, you know, violent gangs like the Proud Boys. And in the past, the daytime's been relatively calm, but the nights have turned violent as, you know, Proud Boys and others go out hunting anyone they perceive as antifa. And, you know, because of that violence, this time the local police will have support from the D.C. National Guard.

I went out last night briefly. It was quiet at the time, but fights did break out later as Trump supporters were trying to push past the cops to get to Black Lives Matter Plaza right there outside the White House. We're bracing for more of that today. And then, Noel, on top of the risk of physical violence, though, there's a heavy dose of coronavirus denial or at least minimizing. You know, we know masks aren't popular with this crowd, and that's a whole different kind of danger associated with a big event like this in a raging pandemic.

KING: Of course. I mean, look, the fact is Joe Biden won the election. He's going to be inaugurated. But there are some people who will not accept that fact. What do you think - you've been covering these folks for a while. What do you think happens next for them? What's their next move?

ALLAM: Yeah. I mean, we're talking about a significant chunk of the population, you know, millions of Americans who embrace these false claims, who still see Trump as their rightful leader. And, no, that doesn't vanish overnight when Biden takes office. Where they take this depends on a number of factors, including what happens within the Republican Party once Trump is out of power and, you know, what Trump himself goes on to do, whether he stays on the sidelines or keeps inserting himself into politics. And, you know, there's also concern that some of this anger and conspiracy is going to bubble into acts of violence. We've already seen some instances of that, including this plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan. So, yes, domestic terrorism analysts worry that we'll see continued unrest, and they fear a rise in political violence. We're not even through today yet, and some are already organizing for yet another rally, this one scheduled for January 20, Inauguration Day.

KING: NPR's Hannah Allam, be safe and thank you.

ALLAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hannah Allam is a Washington-based national security correspondent for NPR, focusing on homegrown extremism. Before joining NPR, she was a national correspondent at BuzzFeed News, covering U.S. Muslims and other issues of race, religion and culture. Allam previously reported for McClatchy, spending a decade overseas as bureau chief in Baghdad during the Iraq war and in Cairo during the Arab Spring rebellions. She moved to Washington in 2012 to cover foreign policy, then in 2015 began a yearlong series documenting rising hostility toward Islam in America. Her coverage of Islam in the United States won three national religion reporting awards in 2018 and 2019. Allam was part of McClatchy teams that won an Overseas Press Club award for exposing death squads in Iraq and a Polk Award for reporting on the Syrian conflict. She was a 2009 Nieman fellow at Harvard and currently serves on the board of the International Women's Media Foundation.
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