Violence has broken out in the streets of Washington DC after far-right groups clashed with counter-protesters in the aftermath of a march by conservatives protesting against US president-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.
The trouble flared as darkness fell and crowds began to disperse in the wake of a largely peaceful demonstration on Saturday by Trump supporters who allege without evidence that the 3 November election was tainted by fraud.
Groups of pro-Trump Proud Boys protesters and Antifa counterprotesters brawled in the city’s downtown streets and although police used pepper spray on members of both sides, the rivals regrouped and violence continued sporadically.
Four people were taken to hospital with stab wounds with potentially life-threatening injuries, according to the Washington Post, which quoted DC fire spokesman, Doug Buchanan. Police said 23 people were arrested.
An estimated 200 members of the Proud Boys, a violent far-right group, had joined the marches earlier on Saturday near the Trump hotel in the capital. Mixing with church groups who urged the faithful to participate in “Jericho Marches” and prayer rallies for the defeated president, the Proud Boys contingent wore combat fatigues and ballistic vests, carried helmets and flashed hand signals used by white nationalists.
They shouted insults at rival Antifa protesters and burned Black Lives Matters flags but police succeeded in keeping the factions apart until the evening
Protests also took place in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona, where Trump’s campaign has sought to overturn vote counts.
Local media in the Washington state capital of Olympia reported that one person was shot and three arrested after clashes between pro- and anti-Trump protest groups.
More than 50 federal and state court rulings have upheld Biden’s victory. The US supreme court on Friday rejected a long-shot lawsuit filed by Texas and backed by Trump seeking to throw out voting results in four states.
“Whatever the ruling was yesterday … everybody take a deep, deep breath,” retired army general Mike Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, told protesters in front of the supreme court, referring to the court’s refusal to hear the Texas case.
Flynn who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with the former Russian ambassador, spoke in his first public address since Trump pardoned him in November.
“My charge to you is to go back to where you are from” and make demands, Flynn told the crowd, without being more specific. The US constitution is “not about collective liberty it is about individual liberties, and they designed it that way”, he said.
Trump has refused to concede defeat, alleging without evidence that he was denied victory by massive fraud. On his way to Andrews air force base and then to the annual Army-Navy football game in New York, Trump made three passes in the Marine One helicopter over the cheering protesters.
Earlier on Saturday, Trump’s supporters carrying flags and signs made their way in small knots toward Congress and the supreme court through downtown Washington, which was closed to traffic by police vehicles and dump trucks.
Few of the marchers wore masks, despite soaring Covid-19 deaths and cases, defying a mayoral directive for them to be worn outside. Several thousand people rallied in Washington, fewer than during a similar protest last month.
As some in the crowd echoed far right conspiracy theories about the election, a truck-pulled trailer flew Trump 2020 flags and a sign reading “Trump Unity” while blaring the country song “God Bless the USA”.
“It’s clear the election has been stolen,” said Mark Paul Jones of Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, who sported a tricorner revolutionary war-era hat as he walked toward the supreme court with his wife.
Some protesters referenced the biblical miracle of the battle of Jericho, in which the walls of the city crumbled after soldiers and priests blowing horns marched around it.
In his speech, Flynn told the protesters they were all standing inside Jericho after breaching its walls.
Ron Hazard of Morristown, New Jersey, was one of five people who stopped at the justice department to blow shofars – a ram’s horn used in Jewish religious ceremonies – to bring down “the spiritual walls of corruption”.
“We believe what is going on in this county is an important thing. It’s a balance between biblical values and anti-biblical values,” Hazard said.
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.