The ongoing vote count for the 2020 presidential election took a chaotic turn on Wednesday evening as mobs of militant supporters of President Donald Trump stormed a vote counting center in Detroit, Michigan to demand unfettered access to the facility.
Members of anti-lockdown groups and pro-Trump activists – egged on by the president’s tweets groundlessly alleging fraud – converged on the TCF Center in downtown Detroit after Democratic challenger Joe Biden won the coveted battleground state.
Crowds arrived at the boarded-up counting hall shouting “Let us in,” “Stop the count,” and “Stop the vote,” while banging on windows and doors and raising anxiety among local police officers and security guards, who pushed back against attempts by “poll watchers” to enter the facility.
Things took a riotous turn as police struggled to control the crowd of Republicans, who claimed that they were unjustly being excluded from the process. Democratic onlookers countered the claim by pointing out that they, too were being kept outside.
Rules governing the ballot count allow each group contesting the vote to have 134 challengers – including 134 Republican challengers, 134 Democrats, and 134 non-party challengers from groups like the League of Women Voters and ACLU.
However, some 400 challengers were roaming through the ballot-counting center while a small group of poll workers count roughly 25,000 absentee ballots from the Detroit area, reports Detroit Free Press.
Police escorted one poll challenger from the counting room after he emphatically refused to exit on his own.
In the meantime, right-wing groups like Stand Up Michigan to Unlock Michigan – a private Facebook group of 79,000 members based in Lansing, MI “who are passionate about advancing freedom” – are mobilizing for supporters to attend an “Urgent call to action in Detroit.”
The groups had previously been organizing around the coronavirus pandemic to resist social distancing and public health measures by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whom the president has singled out for imposing what he called a “draconian, unscientific lockdown.”
The raucous scenes unfolded Wednesday as Biden makes increasing gains in the electoral college count, with conservative Fox News reporting that Biden has 264 electoral college votes while Trump has 214.
Biden came close to declaring an outright victory after officials declared that he had won Wisconsin and Michigan.
In the meantime, Trump has bemoaned the electoral process and blamed officials for “surprise ballot dumps” and outright fraud, without substantiating the charges. The president has long cast aspersion on the electoral process as “fixed,” but critics have refuted the allegation as based on misinformation.
On Wednesday evening, Trump decried the unfolding outcome of the election while promising to wage a protracted legal battle. The president tweeted:
“Our lawyers have asked for ‘meaningful access’, but what good does that do? The damage has already been done to the integrity of our system, and to the Presidential Election itself. This is what should be discussed!”
The president also claimed victory in Pennsylvania, where 15 percent of the vote and some hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be counted, as well as Michigan, in spite of it being called for Biden. He also claimed victory in North Carolina and Georgia, where votes are still being tallied.
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