WASHINGTON >> Presidential loyalists skirmished with anti-Donald Trump demonstrators over the weekend in Washington, leading to dozens of arrests, several stabbings and injuries to police officers, in disturbances hours after rallies in support of his baseless claims that he won a second term.
Police in the District of Columbia said they arrested nearly 30 people for a variety of offenses, from assault to weapons possession and resisting arrests and rioting. The violence broke out after sundown Saturday.
Four men were stabbed around 10 p.m. after a fight downtown, police said. At least one suspect, 29 year-old Phillip Johnson of Washington, was arrested on a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. A police report obtained by the Associated Press said at least one of the victims identified Johnson as the person who stabbed him.
Eight police officers were also injured during the demonstrations, officials said.
The earlier rallies of mostly unmasked Trump loyalists were intended as a show of force just two days before the Electoral College meets to formally elect Democrat Joe Biden as the 46th president. Trump, whose term will end Jan. 20, refuses to concede, while clinging to unfounded claims of fraud that have been rejected by state and federal courts, and Friday by the Supreme Court.
A pro-Trump demonstration last month, which drew 10,000 to 15,000 people to the capital, also ended late on a Saturday evening with scattered clashes between Trump’s allies and local activists near Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House.
On Saturday, police took more steps to keep the two sides apart, closing a wide swath of downtown to traffic and sealing off Black Lives Matter Plaza.
But while Saturday’s rallies, including one on Freedom Plaza downtown, were smaller than on Nov. 14, they drew a larger contingent of the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist group known to incite street violence. Some wore bulletproof vests as they marched through town.
The group saw its profile raised after Trump in September famously told them to “stand back and stand by.”
After the rallies ended, downtown Washington quickly devolved into crowds of hundreds of Proud Boys and combined forces of antifa and local Black activists — both sides seeking a confrontation in an area flooded with police officers. As dusk fell, they faced off on opposite sides of a street, with multiple lines of city police and federal Park Police, some in riot gear, keeping them separated.