WASHINGTON—The capital city is locking its doors as anticipation of election night violence builds. Plywood is the most common window decoration along many facades downtown, especially in the streets near the White House.
Extra fences have been erected around the White House to include Lafayette Park in its boundary, and several temporary sheds have been placed in the park, ostensibly for law enforcement to be staged.
President Donald Trump has said he plans to stay at the White House during Election Day, after initially planning a party at the nearby Trump International Hotel.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser told businesses to prepare for potential disruption on Election Day and afterward, and warned motorists to stay away from downtown, where road closures are likely.
“We also know that some people would like to cause mayhem or trouble,” Bowser said in a Oct. 29 press conference. “We don’t have any specific thing to report to you about that, but we will tell you that we are preparing to ensure the city’s safety.”
She said the Metro Police Department and the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency will take the lead in securing the city, and the emergency operations center will be activated on Nov. 3 “for as long as we need it.”
The National Guard confirmed that it hadn’t been activated in Washington as of 11 a.m. on Nov. 2.
A group called ShutDownDC is organizing an eight-hour-long demonstration on Election Day, beginning at 4 p.m. near the White House.
“Votes will still be coming in, so this will (probably) not be the time we need to create disruption to stop a coup—yet,” the group states on its website. “But we’ll be in a good place to respond to whatever might happen. This has been a really long and dark era so we’re going to be together to process our feelings of hope, anger, fear, and exhaustion as a community.”
Other groups involved in the demonstration include Black Lives Matter DC, Casa Action, Democratic Socialists of America DMV, Extinction Rebellion DC, Rising Tide North America, and Sunrise Movement DC.
ShutDownDC has plans to take to the streets for several days after the election “to respond to rapidly changing events.”
The group is operating under the assumption that Trump will lose the election and refuse to concede.
“We came to a consensus on our basic framework to defend democracy and make sure Trump leaves the White House,” ShutDownDC states on its website. “We won’t let [Congress members] go into the Capitol and continue passing laws while Trump is plotting a coup!”
A new website, Expose Sunrise, posted leaked footage of a recent ShutDownDC Zoom call, in which a spokesperson states: “On the 5th, we’re going to shut down the White House. On the 6th, we’re going to shut down larger parts of DC. And then the following week, all the mainstream groups are going to come to DC and try to have a march on the 7th.”
Participant Lisa Fithian said, “We are going to be in a crisis, but we want it to be one that we are creating.”
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, the Oathkeepers militia group is concerned that groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa will create riots and violence such as that seen in many cities over the summer.
While mainstream media reports say right-wing militia groups pose the biggest threat to election stability, Oathkeepers founder Stewart Rhodes dismisses it as classic gaslighting and projection.
“‘Don’t pay attention to the whole lot of violence in the streets, burning cities, and beatings and murders by the left across the country—pay no attention to that, that’s not happening,'” Rhodes told The Epoch Times. “That’s what they do. And then the other thing is projection—they’re projecting on us what they’re doing.”
Rhodes is concerned that Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement, which he calls a communist front group, has the traction now to try for a violent takeover.
“Our concern is preserving our Constitution and preserving the rule of law in this country,” he said. “But … we have got to face the reality that we have a large segment of the political left that has gone full Marxist, and does not respect the Constitution, and in fact, wants to overthrow it.”
Oathkeepers plans to stage a group of its members just outside of Washington, ready to come in, “as a last resort.” Rhodes said the group will consist of veterans from the Rangers, Special Forces, Navy SEALs, infantry, and retired SWAT officers.
He said the group will only go in if the president called on them—”all it would take is one tweet”—or if there’s an attempted storming of the White House. “That’s what we’re preparing for. I don’t think it’s likely, [but] I think that there’s a possibility,” Rhodes said. “We’ll also be on standby in case there’s massive insurrection in some of these cities.”
Rhodes said members of the Oathkeepers will also be unobtrusively stationed at polling places on Election Day, mostly in swing states, to observe the voting process for fraud or coercion.
The rhetoric at the top of the ticket is also divided about where the threat of violence is coming from.
“Somebody has got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem,” Trump said on Sept. 29 at the first presidential debate.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden responded that “the threat comes from white supremacists” and “Antifa is an idea, not an organization.”
A USA Today/Suffolk University poll in October found that 75 percent of likely voters are concerned about the possibility of violence during Election Day and beyond.
Among the respondents, both Democrats and Republicans have shown similar levels of concern, with 80 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans saying that they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the possibility of violence. The poll was conducted between Oct. 23 and Oct. 27 of 1,000 likely voters through telephone interviews.
The USA Today said its same poll in 2016 found that 53 percent of those surveyed were concerned about violence.
The polls mirror the surge in gun sales over the past year, which show a 60 percent increase from August 2019 to August 2020. The increase included many people who didn’t previously own firearms. A combination of the pandemic, civil unrest, and the election have been attributed to the surge.
The Department of Homeland Security has said it is fully prepared regarding election night safety and security.
“The American people can rest assured that this election will be decided by American voters,” agency spokesperson Chase Jennings told The Epoch Times via email.
Janita Kan and Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.