Businesses boarded up behind plywood palisades with increased security personnel. Hordes of angry protesters – some more ready for violence than others – raging in the streets. Police and the National Guard watching, struggling to walk that fine line between allowing peaceful protest and protecting against looting and riots.
These are the images seen across the United States days after what should have been the final tallying of the votes in the 2020 election. All the while, these people on the front lines grow more tired, anxious, and frustrated with each passing day. There have already been attacks and protests that evolved into riots, but with so many people holding their action to see how the election turns out – and how everyone else reacts to it – the sword of Damocles seems ready to drop at any moment. Can militant America stand down, or is it already too late to avoid the outbreak of election violence, regardless of who wins?
Equal Opportunity Haters
According to some security experts, we can expect more violence regardless of the election’s outcome – with the weekend after Election Day a likely flashpoint for violence. Robert Lewis is a former U.S. Army Green Beret who founded the First Amendment Praetorian (1AP), a crowdfunded volunteer organization made up of military, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals. Lewis told Fox News that his group has been studying and even infiltrating Antifa – and what they have discovered, if true, is terrifying.
According to Lewis, Antifa is a highly sophisticated and well-funded organization that intends to spread destruction and anarchy regardless of who wins. Republican, Democrat, or other – it doesn’t matter to them. They want to tear down what they perceive to be a corrupt system, and the division of this election provides the perfect cover. Their alleged tactics include acting like Trump supporters and getting into fake fights with other Antifa personnel in hopes of spreading unrest to opposing groups of real protesters.
And of course, not all looters and rioters belong to some group like Antifa or BLM. Some are merely unaffiliated hooligans who use the issues being protested as excuses to destroy things and steal stuff they can sell later on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Anger Boils on Both Sides
Protests and riots in all the expected venues – Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., NYC, etc. – are leaving businesses ruined and people injured. And of course, the streets are effectively shut down so that even emergency services in many places are having trouble navigating the chaos.
A freeway was blocked by demonstrators in Minneapolis Wednesday night, ostensibly to advance progressive causes. Protesters chanted against racism, police brutality, and President Trump as they marched down I-94, resulting in the shutting down of the interstate and traffic grinding to a halt. It took the state police and National Guard to end the unrest – detaining nearly 200 people.
In Arizona, dozens of demonstrators protested at a vote counting center, allegedly trying to push into the building at one point. The Local ABC affiliate reported that the crowd appeared to be a mix of Trump supporters and far-right activists, some of whom were armed. Allegedly, they were protesting the fact that Arizona had been called for Joe Biden so early in the process.
In Texas, two community organizers have been issuing warning flyers to black voters in Austin, saying they should stay home and pull any political signs out of their yards after voting. While there has not been a violent reaction to black voters in the area, this group seems to think there will be – and correct or not, their warning heightens political and racial tensions in the city.
Can Cooler Heads Prevail?
So many people are gearing up to use violence to make their voices heard – and many more are ready to meet them head-on. That’s not counting the folks who sow discord for fun or profit. Some people may react violently to the presence of the police and the National Guard, which they see as an affront to liberty and an infringement of the First Amendment right to gather. As so many people, driven by various and often conflicting motives, stand ready to fight for their agenda, does it even matter any more who wins or how?
In the meantime, the best course of action may well be for everyone to take the advice offered in Austin, regardless of race: Do what you must to avoid conflict in this stressful time, but be prepared to defend yourself if it comes your way.
Read more from James Fite.