City officials in Washington on Monday warned supporters of US president Donald Trump not to bring guns to protests this week against congressional certification of his election defeat and enlisted hundreds of National Guard troops to help keep order.
“We have received some information that there are individuals intent on bringing firearms into our city and that just will not be tolerated,” said police chief Robert Contee. He added that anyone found doing so or provoking violence would be arrested.
More than 300 troops will be on hand to support the city government, providing crowd control and aiding fire and rescue services, said the DC National Guard. They will be joined by the US Capitol Police, Park Police and Secret Service, said Mr Contee.
The district has some of the United States’ strictest gun laws and forbids open carry of weapons or possession of a handgun without a local license.
Thousands of Trump supporters, including some far-right nationalist groups that openly carry arms at protests elsewhere, are expected to converge on the US capital starting on Tuesday to oppose Congress’s certification the next day of the Republican president’s November 3rd election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
Mr Contee said the protests could be bigger than November and December rallies marred by stabbings and brawls as hundreds of Proud Boys, a group of self-described “western chauvinists” and other Trump loyalists clashed with counter-protesters, and sought fights with anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter activists.
Trump promises to appear
Mr Trump summoned supporters to this week’s gatherings, saying on Twitter on Sunday that “I will be there” and on Friday that “it will be wild”.
Several rallies are planned for Wednesday, including one outside the US Congress. The White House has not provided details on when or where Mr Trump might appear.
The president claims falsely that Mr Biden won the election through massive vote rigging, even though dozens of state and federal court rulings, state election officials of both parties, and the US justice department, have found no major fraud.
Congress is constitutionally mandated to certify the presidential election results on Wednesday in what would normally be a formality overseen by vice-president Mike Pence.
But at least 12 Republican senators and some 140 Republican House of Representatives members pledged to vote against certification of Mr Biden’s win, citing Mr Trump’s election fraud allegations.
The head of the Proud Boys pledged on social media that “record numbers” of members would attend. “We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams,” said Enrique Tarrio. – Reuters