Protesters crying foul over vote counts stir safety concerns

Published 6:30 am Saturday, November 7, 2020

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Protesters crying foul over closely watched vote counts rallied outside tabulation centers in Phoenix and Detroit Friday, responding to President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the race for the White House.

The protests came as elections officials in several states where counts show Democrat Joe Biden ahead said the anger vented outside their doors had left them worried about the safety of their workers.

Roughly 200 Trump supporters gathered for a third straight day Friday in front of the elections center in downtown Phoenix, where hundreds of workers are still processing and counting ballots.

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“Arrest the poll workers,” the crowd chanted, demanding that Trump’s presidency be renewed for “four more years.” Sheriffs’ deputies kept protesters in a “free speech” zone away from the entrance to the building.

“When we start auditing some of these voter rolls, their fraud may actually be exposed,” conservative activist Charlie Kirk told the crowd, eliciting cheers.

In Detroit, dozens of Trump supporters returned Friday to the streets outside Detroit’s convention center, where election workers have counted ballots.

“Stop the steal,” the protesters chanted. Some carried signs that read, “Make Elections Fair Again,” and “We Love Trump.” Police cordoned off streets leading to the tabulation center and maintained a close watch on the protest.

Election officials in several closely contested states expressed concern about threats and rhetoric directed at workers counting votes.

“I can tell you that my wife and my mother are very concerned for me,” Joe Gloria, the registrar in Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, said Thursday. He said his staff was bolstering security and tracking vehicles coming and going from the election offices.

He said he and others would not be stopped from “doing what our duty is and counting ballots.”

While the protests have not been violent or particularly large, local officials said they were concerned about the relentless accusations.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted a plea Thursday to “stop making harassing & threatening calls” to her staff.

“Asking them to shove sharpies in uncomfortable places is never appropriate & is a sad commentary on the state of our nation,” wrote Nessel, a Democrat, referring to a false conspiracy theory that Trump supporters were told to fill out ballots with Sharpie markers instead of regular pens so that their votes wouldn’t be counted by the machines.

The county treasurer in Detroit, Eric Sabree, said Friday he had closed his office Friday due to threats. In a statement, Sabree said the decision was made “in the interest of the safety of taxpayers and our staff” and because of “credible information” received from the Wayne County Sheriff’s office.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, speaking on CNN, said her main concern was staff safety but that sheriff’s deputies were providing protection. She said the protesters were “causing delay and disruption and preventing those employees from doing their job.”

During a Thursday rally in Phoenix, protesters paused to listen as Trump spoke from the White House, where he repeated many of his groundless assertions of a rigged vote.

They whooped and clapped when the president said, “We’re on track to win Arizona.” The Associated Press has called Arizona for Biden.

In Atlanta, roughly 100 chanting Trump supporters gathered outside State Farm Arena Thursday as votes were being counted. Several Atlanta police officers monitored the scene.

Tom Haas, 50, who said he was visiting Atlanta from Chicago on business, said he was convinced Trump had won the election. “There’s obvious voter fraud, and it’s coming out of the larger Democratic-run cities,” he said. “Atlanta is one of them.”

“Our democracy is under attack,” he said, echoing Trump’s language. “We’re losing America because we’re losing a fair election for the nation.”