As thousands of people poured into the streets across Washington to celebrate the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President-elect and Vice President-elect, hundreds stood in protest.
Law enforcement Saturday afternoon kept raucous demonstrators separated from each other in a brief but tense scene at the Capitol campus in Olympia.
They were met by counter-protesters whose group was smaller in number but equally charged, that caused law enforcement to briefly close down Capitol Way and keep the group on opposite sides of the street.
The demonstrators traded insults under gray skies on the day news outlets declared Democratic nominee Biden had won enough votes to be the next president. The pro-Trump demonstration was part of a nationwide group of “Stop the Steal” rallies, according to one demonstrator. Supporters of the president held signs suggesting there has been vote fraud, as well as “Thin Blue Line” and Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.
“It’s just a message of support for the president, and Loren Culp too,” said Casey Hubbard, referring to the GOP challenger who last week lost in his bid to unseat Gov. Jay Inslee. Hubbard, a 29-year-old from Renton, stood in front of a church across the street from the Capitol and waved an American flag and a flag that read, “Jesus is King.”
They were met by counter-demonstrators holding rainbow flags and a messages of support for Biden. At one point, counter-demonstrators held a Trump campaign flag upside down and set it on fire.
Tensions eased a bit when the Trump demonstrators moved onto the Capitol campus and away from the intersection. All told, as many as 400 demonstrators gathered, according the Washington State Patrol.
“Looks to be a mixture of groups, both Pro- Trump and Pro- Biden,” wrote State Patrol spokesperson Chris Loftis in an email. “Minor conflicts but largely peaceful. No arrests.”
About 100 miles away, a few hundred rallied at Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver, in Clark County. One of the speakers was the founder of the far-right Patriot Prayer group and Clark County resident Joey Gibson, who declared that there “had been a coup against the president and the American people.” He spent much of his time recounting alleged incidents of election problems in other states.
Those who who came out amid sporadic rain gathered inside a park shelter to hear Gibson and a few other speakers. Later, they marched a short distance to a walkway by the Interstate 5 bridge to wave flags at motorists, some of whom honked back in support.
The “Stop the Steal” movement was launched Wednesday on Facebook, and a day later had more than 320,000 members in its group. It caught the attention of Facebook, which shut the group down because there were some comments that sought to incite violence, The New York Times reported.
Some who attended the Vancouver rally openly carried rifles, and a pistol could be seen stuck into the jeans pocket of one man. During the rally, Gibson declared that “this is war.” But speakers did not call for violent action, and complained that their speech was being censored by major social-media companies such as Facebook.
During his talk, Gibson read a letter that Trump released Saturday that challenged the validity of the vote count, and he urged those who attended to support the legal challenge being mounted by the president’s lawyers. Gibson also asked Vancouver Trump supporters to show up for another rally scheduled Sunday in Olympia.
“There are going to be a lot of events like this. This is going to be a long fight,” Gibson said.