WASHINGTON – After a weekend with dozens of arrests and scattered clashes between supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump, both sides took to social media to accuse the other of instigating violence. Meanwhile, a long-standing D.C. bar stands in danger of losing its liquor license after becoming a haven for Trump supporters who refused to follow local COVID-19 restrictions.
All told, 21 people were arrested, including one juvenile, for charges that included disorderly conduct, inciting violence and assault.
The violence took place Saturday night after a largely peaceful day in which 10,000 to 15,000 Trump supporters rallied behind the president's unfounded claims of massive irregularities and voting fraud. Democrat Joe Biden won the election, but Trump has not conceded.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, both Republican and Democratic election officials have said the election went well and international observers confirmed no serious irregularities.
Around sunset Saturday, a group of around 200 counterprotesters who had been marching through the city coalesced a block from Black Lives Matter Plaza, which police had sealed off. This group, which included Black Lives Matter members and people associated with antifa, sought to prevent Trump supporters from entering the area.
The few scattered groups of Trump supporters who did attempt to enter were harassed, doused with water and in some cases had their flags and red “Make America Great Again” hats snatched and burned. Police, using bicycles to form walls, physically separated the groups multiple times. Later, a larger, more organized group of Trump supporters, including members of the far-right fascist group Proud Boys, attempted to confront the counterprotesters, leading to a series of brief but chaotic brawls that left several injured and one person with stab wounds.
Washington's police chief praised the conduct of his department, saying it was “quite remarkable” that there wasn't more violence, injuries or property damage.
“I’m not sure another agency in the country could have handled that,” Chief Peter Newsham said Monday. “I couldn't be more proud.”
Newsham said eight firearms were confiscated, mostly handguns but also including what he called “in between a rifle and a handgun. It’s a very unique weapon.”
Meanwhile, both sides accused the Metropolitan Police Department of failing to protect them.
Trump has personally weighed in on the back-and-forth on social media, retweeting several video clips of his supporters being harassed and challenging the D.C. police to “do your job and don't hold back!!!”
One of Trump's retweets showed a clip of a Trump supporter in a brown and orange jacket being punched in the back of the head and knocked out. But the unedited video shows the man attacking and shoving several people, including two women, before he was punched.
The local Black Lives Matter chapter made a point of praising antifa for helping defend the Black Lives Matter Plaza area on Saturday.
“Everyone hates Antifa (short for anti-Fascist) until they put their bodies between them and violent white supremacists,” the group said on Twitter.
The Black Lives Matter group also criticized police for allowing small groups of Trump supporters to come several times over the weekend and remove the dozens of signs, paintings and shrines to victims of police violence from the fence surrounding Lafayette Square Park. Multiple online videos show police standing by as several maskless women pull down the signs while others argued with them and attempted to physically intervene.
Newsham said the decision not to intervene is “a hard call" and said police could easily “exacerbate the situation." by getting directly involved.
“We have to leave that call to the officials on the scene,” Newsham said.
Perhaps the most enduring aftermath of the Trump march weekend may lie with Harry's Bar. The venerable pub in the Harrington Hotel just off Pennsylvania Avenue became a hotspot for Trump supporters over the weekend and is now in danger of losing its liquor license. The bar received a pair of $1,000 fines on Saturday and Sunday for multiple violations of local COVID-19 restrictions — including overcrowding and patrons not wearing masks.
Harry's had previously received a warning in October after Trump retweeted a video showing the bar packed with maskless patrons who cheered and chanted “Back the blue!” when a group of police officers walked in. A third formal mask violation fine would result in the Alcoholic Beverage control board reviewing the bar's liquor license.
An employee of Harry's Bar declined to comment Monday.