PORTLAND, Ore. — Calling on election officials to “count every vote,” protesters marched through the streets of several American cities Wednesday in response to President Donald Trump’s aggressive effort to challenge the vote count in Tuesday’s presidential election.
In Minneapolis, protesters blocked a freeway, prompting arrests. In Portland, hundreds gathered on the waterfront to protest the president’s attempted interventions in the vote count as a separate group protesting the police and urging racial justice surged through downtown, smashing shop windows and confronting police officers and National Guard troops.
In Phoenix, about 150 pro-Trump protesters, some of them armed, gathered outside the county recorder’s office where a closely watched count of votes that could help determine the outcome of the election was being conducted.
At several points, protesters contended that Adrian Fontes, the county official who oversees elections in Maricopa County, was improperly failing to count some ballots and costing Trump votes in Arizona’s most populous county — although there was no evidence that any ballots had been improperly tossed.
Keely Varvel, Fontes’ chief deputy, said there were no plans to halt counting of the ballots because of the protest in front of the building. “We are still planning to finish up our scheduled ballot processing work and report out more results tonight,” Varvel said.
Another group of pro-Trump poll watchers gathered earlier outside a ballot-counting center in Detroit, demanding that officials “stop the count” of ballots after the Trump campaign filed suit to halt the count in Michigan.
Trump claimed early Wednesday that he had won the election long before key states had counted all their ballots. He spent much of the day asserting, without evidence, that people were trying to “steal” the election from him and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the many ballots sent through the mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Early Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden was only a handful of electoral votes from winning the election, and Trump’s campaign was mounting an aggressive legal effort to challenge the tally, filing lawsuits in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
“It’s such a dangerous moment,” said Carol Carmick, 59, who said she joined the protests in Portland out of fears that Trump would try to stay in power even if he lost the election.
Protesters also gathered in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere, some of them continuing the protests over racial justice and policing that have rocked the country since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. More demonstrations were scheduled for the coming days.
In Minneapolis, several hundred protesters angered over the president’s declarations marched onto Interstate 94, prompting the police to clear the roadway.
“Our focus is on not allowing Donald Trump to steal this election from the American people,” Nekima Levy Armstrong, a lawyer who was part of the protest, said in a phone interview from the freeway. She said that the protesters had halted traffic and that the police, some on horses, had begun to make arrests and were not allowing protesters to leave.
The Minnesota State Patrol said on Twitter that it was arresting protesters and that demonstrating on the freeway “is illegal and very dangerous for pedestrians and motorists.”
In New York, protesters held a peaceful demonstration in Manhattan earlier Wednesday calling for every vote to be counted and for racial equality, but hostile clashes between protesters and the police developed later on when protesters briefly shut down traffic in the West Village and officers pushed protesters to the sidewalks and arrested at least 20 people.
In Portland, hundreds of people marched through downtown. “The Vote Is Over. The Fight Goes On,” one sign read. The crowd later stopped at a separate “Count Every Vote” rally along the waterfront, where speakers expressed fears that Trump, who lost decisively in Oregon, was trying to sabotage the election and prevent votes from being counted in other states.
A portion of the crowd proceeded through downtown, where some people smashed windows. At that point, dozens of police officers began chasing the crowd through the streets and declared a riot. Gov. Kate Brown had extended an emergency declaration earlier in the day, allowing her to activate the National Guard that joined Wednesday night’s operations. The authorities said they made 10 arrests.
The city has seen persistent protests since May, and many of the demonstrators have vowed to continue their actions to support racial justice and oppose police brutality no matter who wins the election.
More than a dozen protests against Trump’s efforts to stop votes from being counted were organized by Refuse Fascism. At the one in Seattle, a group of protesters yelled, “Every city, every town, Trump-Pence out now,” and “Count every single vote.”
At the pro-Trump event in Phoenix, at least 150 people gathered in front of the state Capitol before marching to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.
“The only way Biden can win Arizona is through fraud,” said Jim Williams, 67, a welder who attended the protest. “I won’t accept a Biden victory. I don’t want to live under Communist rule.”
Some in the crowd chanted “Down With Fox,” reflecting the protesters’ ire at Fox News’ decision Tuesday to call Arizona for Biden, a move that some other news outlets later followed.