After President Donald Trump prematurely declared himself the winner of the 2020 presidential elections early this Wednesday morning, activists on both sides of the race ramped up public demonstrations as key swing states worked to finish the vote count.
Trump declared the election a “fraud” and called for the voting count to cease during his speech at the White House. When Trump said he would be taking it to the U.S. Supreme Court, his supporters in the room watching the speech reacted by cheering loudly to the news.
Trump’s speech happened less than two hours after former vice president and Democratic candidate Joe Biden spoke to his voters in Wilmington, Delaware. In his address to the crowd, Biden seemed optimistic about the outcome of the election.
Despite worries of violence erupting among the most passionate supporters on each side, there were no reports of large conflicts this Wednesday. Election Day seemed to go smoothly for most states as the police only reported some isolated incidents of violence throughout the day. In North Carolina, a man wearing a Trump hat attempted entry twice at a polling place while carrying a concealed weapon. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department later arrested the man.
Chicago police reported another incident when a caller said he got his car clubbed by people with baseball bats near a polling site. The officers said the victim left the scene and didn’t file a report. Earlier that day, police also reported responding to a call at another polling place after a poll worker claimed a man yelled at her, making her feel threatened. The worker didn’t file a report either.
As the votes continued to be counted on Wednesday, more demonstrations occurred across the country, with partisans on both sides gathering in the streets of cities across the country, especially in cities like Philadelphia and Detroit where the uncounted votes stood to decide the presidency.
Before Election Day, employees of large companies boarded up storefronts all across America as companies said they feared election results could lead to social unrest.
Several retailers such as CVS, Target, and Tiffany started their preparations for the election with massive plywood sheets, and some small businesses followed.
Walmart decided to temporarily pull guns and ammunition off the shelves last Thursday. In a statement by spokesman Kory Lundberg, the company points to “isolated civil unrest” as the cause of its concerns over the safety of the staff. The decision was reversed only a day later as Walmart said the incident was “isolated.”
An expected record-high number of Americans turned out to cast their ballots this year. The elections come at a time of deep political divide after Trump’s controversial four-year term.
Although the country continues the battle against coronavirus, early voting broke records, and in some states, voters destroyed the records. Trump’s questioning of the legitimacy of mail-in ballots isn’t a new strategy, but his speech at the White House this morning only served to add fuel to the fire. The public may not know the decision of this tight race for days, even weeks, and for now, Biden made his stance clear by saying the election isn’t over until every vote is counted.
Multiple studies released over the year had long projected this scenario of delay. Over the weekend, Axios published an article about the President’s plans to declare an early victory, according to three sources close to his campaign. Trump denied this report during an interview on Sunday evening.
Four key swing states, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan still had over ten thousand absentee ballots uncounted this morning when President Trump declared victory in his speech. Black Lives Matter protesters and supporters rallied outside the White House amid this climate of delays and suspense. As Toronto Star reporter Edward Keenan tweeted from the scene in Washington, DC, a protest march began at around midnight, with people yelling, “You can’t stop a revolution. This is a revolution.”
In Florida, when Trump was declared winner in the state by the main news outlets covering the election, his voters were already celebrating. CBC reporter Katie Simpson’s Twitter feed showed supporters of the Republican candidate waving flags and cheerfully dancing hours before Florida’s votes were finished being counted.
The United States had already surpassed a million cases of infection by the new coronavirus in May. Major cities imposed curfews to minimize the spread of the virus.
When George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis later that month, the incident drove crowds to the streets to protest against police brutality and systemic racial injustice. The Black Lives Matter movement inspired protests all across the country, which caused a divide between Trump supporters, who saw the BLM movement as a threat to his government, and those protesting.
As the social unrest grew, Trump threatened to send the army to help cities enforce the curfew. Quickly heavily geared police officers joined the protesters, and eventually, the National Guard deployed troops to multiple states. In June, polling started to reveal the impact of Trump’s handling of both crises in his reelection campaign. And now, more than a day after all of the votes have been cast, Trump’s reelection chances dwindle.