Updated at 1:20 a.m. ET Sunday
Thousands of President Trump’s supporters — four weeks after a similar protest — flocked to the nation’s capital for a protest in support of the president and his false claims of a stolen election.
This weekend’s Million MAGA March, along with other named rallies, follows a Nov. 14 protest that brought masses of the president’s supporters to Washington, D.C. Clashes between rallygoers and counterprotesters escalated into violence, and nearly two dozen people were reportedly arrested.
Several groups that attended last month’s protest marched again on Saturday. Those included the Proud Boys, a self-proclaimed “Western-chauvinist” organization known for violent confrontations with left-wing protesters. It’s considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
By Saturday evening, Proud Boys and counterprotesters were facing off in scattered skirmishes downtown. Police tried to separate the two sides. Counterprotesters also clashed with police at times, DCist reported.
By nightfall, clashes between the two groups of protesters became violent. The Washington Post reported that out of a total of eight people injured, at least four people were stabbed. They were taken to the hospital, possibly with life-threatening injuries. It was not immediately clear whether the victims were supporters of Trump or counterprotesters. Two police officers were also taken to the hospital with moderate injuries, according to the Post.
At least 23 people were arrested Saturday night in relation to the protests, according to multiple sources citing the mayor’s office and D.C. police. The arrests included six assaults on a police officer, 10 simple assaults and four riotous acts.
Reporter Jenny Gathright of NPR member station WAMU observed members of the Proud Boys marching through Freedom Plaza earlier Saturday. Some of them were holding up white power symbols.
On Saturday morning, a White House spokesman confirmed that as the group gathered in D.C., one of its leaders, Enrique Tarrio, took a public tour of the White House. Tarrio posted about his visit to the right-wing social media app Parler. The White House says that Tarrio did not meet with the president, nor was he specifically invited. Tarrio said the visit “shows we’ve come a long way.”
Among Saturday’s speakers at the rally was former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who in his first public remarks since he was pardoned by Trump sought to deny President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
“People ask me this all the time now, in the last couple of days certainly: On a scale of 1 to 10, who’s going to be the next president of the United States? And I say 1o, Donald J. Trump! 10!” Flynn told the crowd.
Flynn was pardoned by Trump late last month. He had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Other speakers at the rally included My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell and right-wing activist Jack Posobiec.
Elsewhere, right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was spotted on the National Mall. Jones also attended last month’s march.
Similar to last’s month larger rally, Saturday’s demonstration brought participants into D.C. from far and wide. Louis Murray, who came from Boston, told WAMU that even if Trump’s legal efforts to overturn the election fail, “we can still celebrate Trumpism” and “get ready for 2024.”
“This is a very hopeful day for conservatives in America,” Murray told WAMU.
Trump broadcast his approval of Saturday’s demonstration, tweeting, “Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA.”
On Saturday, crowds cheered as Marine One flew overhead with the president on board en route to another event. During last month’s protest, Trump made an impromptu visit, riding by the rally in his presidential motorcade.
Meanwhile, local Black Lives Matter activists and allies gathered in response at the city’s Black Lives Matter Plaza, a center for activism since the summer.
“We’re not counterprotesting,” said Anthony Lorenzo Green, an organizer with Black Lives Matter’s D.C. chapter. Green told DCist, “We’re really just trying to create spaces of liberation so folks don’t feel oppressed or bothered or feel like, you know, ‘Why are these folks coming to our city bringing this type of violence to our city?’ We’re pushing back against that, saying, ‘No, this is D.C. This is who we are, we’re resilient and we’re going to have our joy in the midst of all that may be going on in the city.’ ”
On Friday, according to WAMU, Trump supporters and counterprotesters clashed at Black Lives Matter Plaza, which led to several arrests.
Hours after last month’s rally, Trump supporters brawled with counterprotesters, with at least one person stabbed, two police officers injured and at least 20 arrests.
Demonstrators are gathering at a time when coronavirus cases have been surging in Washington, D.C., as in most of the United States. As in November, many participants in the pro-Trump gathering were seen without masks or face coverings.