Thousands of supporters protesting the outcome of the election rallied in Washington on Saturday, earning a brief drive-by visit from President Donald Trump himself, in a day of orderly demonstrations that devolved into violence as the night wore on.
Police made 20 arrests, including four on gun charges, as counterprotesters and Trump supporters clashed in the streets throughout the evening. One person was stabbed, but his condition was unknown late Saturday.
For most of the day, however, the crowds were under control, if boisterous, and many greeted the president with applause and cheers when he passed by in his motorcade, waving through the window as he headed to his private golf club in Sterling, Virginia. By early afternoon, demonstrators had fanned out for several blocks around Freedom Plaza.
On Twitter, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, offered an exaggerated assessment of the event, called the Million MAGA March, claiming that 1 million supporters had turned out.
Accounts on the ground suggested that her estimate was wildly inflated.
“It’s not like the Fourth of July or anything,” said a police officer who was stationed near Freedom Plaza at 13th and G Streets. He declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. “But yeah,” he added, “there’s a crowd down there.”
Even if short on numbers, the crowd was not lacking in enthusiasm for the president or outrage over the grievances he has raised over the past four years.
In addition to the Million MAGA March, demonstrations of the Trump faithful in Washington on Saturday included a Stop the Steal rally and a Women for Trump event.
By about noon, demonstrators began marching toward the Capitol, rallying again in the area around the Capitol building and outside the Supreme Court.
“We want Trump to know that we love everything that he did, especially for Hispanic people,” said Anthony Cabassa, 33, who was clutching a flag that read “Defiant.”
In the afternoon, as many Trump supporters began trickling away, more than 40 men who identified themselves as members of the Proud Boys, an extremist organization, began to march back toward Freedom Plaza. Some wore ballistic vests.
Separately, a few skirmishes broke out among Trump supporters and counterprotesters. As the night unfolded, videos on social media showed fistfights breaking out, the police trying to keep the groups apart by forming barricades with their bikes, and protesters amassing near Freedom Plaza, where people lit small fires.