D.C. warns armed Trump supporters to join election rallies, calls in National Guard

Bracing for possible violence, the nation’s capital has mobilized the National Guard ahead of planned protests by U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters in connection with the congressional vote expected Wednesday to affirm Joe Biden’s election victory.

Trump’s supporters are planning to rally Tuesday and Wednesday, seeking to bolster the president’s unproven claims of widespread voter fraud.

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“There are people intent on coming to our city armed,” D.C. Acting Police Chief Robert Contee said Monday.

“We have received some information that there are individuals intent on bringing firearms into our city and that just will not be tolerated,” Contee told a City Hall news conference, adding that anyone found doing so or provoking violence would be arrested.

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A pro-Trump rally in December ended in violence as hundreds of Trump supporters, wearing the signature black and yellow of the Proud Boys faction, sought out confrontations with a collective of local activists attempting to bar them from Black Lives Matter Plaza, an area near the White House.

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On Monday, Metropolitan Police Department officers arrested the leader of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, 36, after he arrived in Washington ahead of this week’s protests. Tarrio was accused of burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was torn down from a historic Black church in downtown Washington during the December protests.

A warrant had been issued for Tarrio’s arrest for destruction of property, police said. He was also facing a weapons charges after officers found him with two high-capacity firearm magazines when he was arrested, a police spokesman said.

Trump has repeatedly encouraged this week’s protests and hinted that he may get personally involved. Over the weekend, he retweeted a promotion for the rally with the message, “I will be there. Historic Day!”

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At a November rally, which drew about 15,000 people, Trump staged a limousine drive-by past cheering crowds in Freedom Plaza, on the city’s iconic Pennsylvania Avenue. And at the December rally, which drew smaller numbers but a larger contingent of Proud Boys, Trump’s helicopter flew low over cheering crowds on the National Mall.

The protests coincide with Wednesday’s congressional vote expected to certify the Electoral College results, which Trump continues to dispute.

Election officials from both political parties, governors in key battleground states and Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have said there was no widespread fraud in the election. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two rejected by the Supreme Court.

Now with downtown D.C. businesses boarding up their windows, Mayor Muriel Bowser has requested a limited National Guard deployment to help bolster the Metropolitan Police Department. During a press conference on Monday, Bowser asked that local area residents stay away from downtown D.C., and avoid confrontations with anyone who is “looking for a fight.” But, she warned, “we will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate our residents or cause destruction in our city.”

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US President Donald Trump pressures Georgia officials to overturn election

According to a U.S. defence official, Bowser put in a request on New Year’s Eve to have Guard members on the streets from Tuesday to Thursday to help with the protests. The official said the additional forces will be used for traffic control and other assistance but they will not be armed or wearing body armour. Congress is meeting this week to certify the Electoral College results, and Trump has refused to concede while whipping up support for protests.

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Some 340 D.C. National Guard members will be activated, with about 115 on duty in the streets at any given time, said the defence official, who provided details on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The official said Guard members will be used to set up traffic control points around the city and to stand with district police officers at all the city’s Metro stops. Contee said Guard troops will also be used for some crowd management.

“Some of our intelligence certainly suggests there will be increased crowd sizes,” said Contee.

D.C. police have posted signs throughout downtown warning that carrying any sort of firearm is illegal and Contee asked area residents to warn authorities of anyone who might be armed.

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