Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump are rallying in Washington DC to back his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the US election.
Far-right and anti-government groups including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and QAnon had indicated they would attend, amid tensions over the result.
Earlier protesters swarmed the presidential motorcade as Mr Trump drove past on his way to his golf course. Joe Biden won the 3 November election.
On Saturday, he solidified his victory with a projected win in the state of Georgia – making him the first Democratic candidate to take the state since 1992.
He now has 306 votes in the electoral college – the system the US uses to choose its president – which far exceeds the 270 threshold to win.
However, Mr Trump has so far refused to concede. He has launched a flurry of legal challenges in key states and made unsubstantiated allegations of widespread electoral fraud – but his efforts have so far been unsuccessful.
What’s the plan for the pro-Trump rally?
Mr Trump’s supporters kicked off the rally about noon local time (17:00G) near Freedom Plaza, just east of the White House.
They are using different names for the event, including Million MAGA March – using the acronym for Mr Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan – as well as the March for Trump and Stop the Steal DC.
It is expected to bring more mainstream Trump supporters together with neo-Nazis, far-right militias and conservative commentators, including prominent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes.
Organisers and right-wing media figures, along with the White House officials, had predicted a huge turnout. Several thousand are so far reported to have joined.
Mr Trump said on Friday he may “try to stop by and say hello”. His motorcade passed the gathering demonstrators on Saturday morning and did a circuit of Freedom Plaza, but carried on to his golf club in Sterling, Virginia. It was unclear if he planned to make a further appearance.
Some left-wing groups are planning counterdemonstrations.
Earlier this week accommodation website Airbnb cancelled a reservation made by an alleged member of the far-right group the Proud Boys, saying “anyone affiliated with hate groups has no place on Airbnb”.
Meanwhile, fans of Korean pop music (K-pop) have been using the #MillionMAGAMarch hashtag online to post pictures of pancakes in protest at the pro-Trump rally.
In the latest example of K-pop fans using innocuous images to drown out Trump supporters, actress Shea Depmore urged people to fill the hashtag with “syrupy goodness”.
A growing sense of a fight losing its energy
A gradual stream of pro-Trump supporters has been making its way towards Freedom Plaza, adorned with T-shirts and carrying placards which read “Stop the Steal” and “Trump 2020”.
The demonstrators were also identifiable by their lack of face-masks as many participants rejected measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.
In that regard alone, this pro-Trump rally is seen by its critics as reckless and irresponsible. It comes as the United States grapples with some of its worst Covid-19 infection rates since the pandemic began, with more than 180,000 new cases and 1,400 deaths recorded in the country over the past 24 hours.
None of that appeared to matter much to the participants who excitedly greeted President Trump’s motorcade as it made an impromptu pass around the plaza on route to his golf course. They are desperate to see this election result overturned and fully back his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and his refusal to concede.
Still, although they may deny it, there is a growing sense of a fight losing its energy and that – like it or not – these supporters will see President-elect Joe Biden in the White House in January.
What is Trump saying?
The president continues to dispute the election result. A tweet on Saturday questioned the checks on postal ballots in Georgia, saying: “Expose the crime!”
It was the latest in a slew of tweets backing his claims of widespread election fraud, although he has provided no evidence.
On Friday, election officials said the vote was the “most secure in American history”, the most direct rebuttal from federal and state authorities of the president’s claims.
On Friday, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News: “President Trump believes he will be President Trump, have a second term.”
However, Mr Trump’s efforts to overturn the result suffered three setbacks on Friday:
- In Arizona, his team dropped a lawsuit seeking a review of ballots cast on Election Day after it became clear his rival’s lead was unassailable. The challenge was based on a claim that some legal votes had been rejected
- In Michigan, a judge rejected a request by two Republican poll watchers – who had alleged fraud in Wayne County – to block the certification of election results in Detroit
- In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign’s requests to invalidate several batches of mail-in ballots were rejected
A manual recount is to be carried out in Georgia because of the narrow margin between the two candidates, but the Biden team said they did not expect it to change the results there.
What’s happening with the transition?
Pressure is growing on Mr Trump to acknowledge Mr Biden’s victory and help prepare the transition from one administration to another.
The General Services Administration (GSA), the government agency tasked with beginning the process, has yet to recognise Mr Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris as winners.
Meanwhile, the Biden team have not been given access to classified security briefings, federal agencies and funding needed to ensure a smooth transition of power. Biden spokesperson Jen Psaki said this lack of access could affect Mr Biden’s ability to govern.
“You need real-time information to deal with crises of the moment,” she said, highlighting the impact of the pandemic. “It’s imperative that our team and our experts have that access.”
Adding his voice to those calls, President Trump’s former chief of staff, John Kelly, said the delay in starting the transition was hurting national security. “It’s not a process where you go from zero to 1,000 miles per hour,” he told Politico.
A small but growing number of Republicans are also backing calls for the president-elect to be given daily intelligence briefings.