Political News

Sporadic protests erupt as anxiety grows over presidential vote count

Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty Images

Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty ImagesBy BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(PHOENIX) — With the presidential election voting count still in progress, officials said ballot counters expressed feeling threatened on Thursday as sporadic protests have broken out in several states including ones with demonstrators gathered outside tallying sites demanding a stop to the counting, and others calling for a continuation.

In Arizona, where the president is narrowly trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, a group of people wearing MAGA hats and waving Trump campaign banners and posters converged on the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Wednesday evening and Thursday. As sheriff’s deputies blocked the entrance on Wedesday, protesters began chanting, “Count the vote!” and “We want Trump.”

Workers erected a temporary fence around the parking lot at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office on Wednesday, hoping to keep protesters at bay. A “freedom of speech zone” was marked off in an area of the parking lot for protesters to gather.

“We’re fighting to the bitter end. This is our Alamo,” U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar told another gathering of Trump supporters in Phoenix Wednesday night.

In Detroit on Wednesday, Trump supporters banged on the windows of a ballot-counting room at the TCF Center, demanding to observe the tally process and chanting “stop the count” as the president held a slight lead that narrowed as the night wore on and tilted in Biden’s favor.

Due to capacity limits prompted by COVID-19 protocols, only a certain number of people are allowed inside the center at once, Detroit police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said. Election challengers, who needed to be approved by the election board, were rotated in and out of the building.

At least one person was escorted from the ballot-counting room by police, according to a videographer from Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ. However, Detroit police told ABC News that no one was arrested in the incident at the TCF Center.

Earlier in the day, the Macomb County, Arizona, GOP urged Trump supporters to go to the TCF Center, writing “all hands on deck!” in an email obtained by ABC News.

Trump and Biden supporters also held dueling rallies outside the Clark County Election Department in Las Vegas, where the vote tally was running neck and neck. Police said the rallies were mostly peaceful and there were no reports of violence or arrests. Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria expressed concern over the safety of his employees working at the vote-counting site.

“I can tell you that my wife and my mother are very concerned for me, but we have security here,” Gloria said on Thursday. “We have law enforcement who are protecting us. I am concerned about the safety of my staff. We’re putting measures into place to make sure that we have the security that’s necessary.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel took to Twitter on Thursday to air similar concerns.

“Dear members of the public: Please stop making harassing & threatening calls to my staff,” Nessel tweeted. “They are kind, hardworking public servants just doing their job. Asking them to shove sharpies in uncomfortable places is never appropriate & is a sad commentary on the state of our nation.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement he released on Thursday that every vote in the state would be counted despite threats against election officials.

“Pennsylvania is going to count every vote and no amount of intimidation will stop our dedicated election officials in our municipalities. As a country and a commonwealth, we must reject efforts to intimidate election workers and prevent votes from being counted. The planned attacks on our elections this morning are undemocratic and all elected officials must denounce them. Pennsylvania will be prepared to protect our election workers and our votes,” Gov. Wolf’s statement read.

Meanwhile, at least 50 people were arrested in New York City on Wednesday night after New York Police Department officials alleged those arrested attempted to “hijack peaceful protests” by setting fires and clashing with officers in Manhattan, according to the NYPD.

Several hundred demonstrators took to the streets of Manhattan, chanting “count every vote” as they marched on Fifth Avenue, but were blocked by a heavy police presence near Trump Tower.

The demonstrators said they were marching “in celebration of justice, fairness and democracy,” according to the NYPD. The NYPD also said that after the rally dispersed, a group of agitators clashed with police officers and set small fires in the streets in Greenwich Village in Manhattan.

The NYPD also tweeted photos of what appeared to be several bladed weapons and M-80 fireworks they said were confiscated at the protests. NYPD officials said arrests were made for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly and obstruction of government administration.

Police in Portland, Oregon, declared a riot Wednesday night when they said “widespread violence” erupted in the downtown area. Officials mobilized the National Guard to help restore peace to the city.

At least 11 people were arrested in Portland, including one man who was in possession of a rifle that had a full magazine of ammunition attached, police said. Authorities said the armed man was also wearing a tactical vest with ballistic plates and allegedly had an improvised explosive device, a knife, and cans of spray paint and is suspected of throwing a Molotov cocktail at police officers.

On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted, “Stop the Count” as his lawyers filed lawsuits in the swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia challenging vote-counting on the grounds that election challengers lack access to locations where ballots are being tallied.

In a speech on Wednesday, Biden said, “Now every vote must be counted. No one is going to take away our democracy from us not now, not ever.”

The Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund, a conservative political action committee, implored supporters of the president to attend rallies planned for Thursday in Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit and Philadelphia, via their website. The group has also scheduled a rally Thursday that is being billed as a “Stop the Steal” event at the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg.

ABC News’ Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.

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