Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the United States elections. This is Joseph Stepansky.
A rally to promote voting in battleground state North Carolina on Saturday ended with police using pepper spray on some participants, including children, and making several arrests, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
About 200 attendees of the “I Am Change” event walked with a police escort from a chapel to a square in the city of Graham, where they held a rally to encourage people to vote on the last day of early voting in the state, the newspaper reported.
The crowd stopped in the street to hold a moment of silence for George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minnesota in May. After the moment of silence, Alamance County sheriff’s office officials told people to clear the road and then used pepper spray to disperse them.
After members of the group moved to a local courthouse to try to give speeches, the authorities began dismantling their sound system and again used pepper spray on the crowd. Police also made arrests, the newspaper said.
“Why were we tear-gassed on the day we were going to the polls? Voter intimidation?” Quencelyn Ellison, an organiser of the march, told the Raleigh News & Observer. “We’ve been out here doing this for several weeks, and we were peaceful. How do we get treated with such great threat?”
Children pepper sprayed & a reporter arrested when police moved in on a peaceful march to vote in North Carolina. https://t.co/wTb9BihjYk
— Mike Ananny (@ananny) October 31, 2020
The National Guard Bureau has created a new unit that could be dispatched to help stem election-related unrest in the coming days, the Washington Post reported.
The unit, which is made up of mostly military policemen, was formed in September and was previously described as a “rapid-reaction force”, the newspaper said. Officials have since softened the title to “regional response units”.
The unit could be deployed for natural disasters or other missions, but may also be used to provide support to local national guard units in cases of unrest in states across the country, as well as in Washington, DC, which is under federal jurisdiction.
National Guard units are typically organised by state and answer to a state’s governor. During months of racial justice protests across the US this summer, National Guard troops were at times deployed to enforce curfews and perform crowd control duties.
Barack Obama will make campaign stops in Florida and Georgia on Monday, a day before the election, in a final Biden campaign push.
Florida, the largest battleground state in the 2020 presidential election, is considered all-but-essential for a Trump victory. If Biden manages to carry the state, he could quickly dash Trump’s hopes of a second term.
Georgia, meanwhile, is a longtime Republican bastion that the Biden campaign has increasingly targeted as polls show a tight race there.
The push comes as Biden is set to spend the remaining days of the campaign in Pennsylvania, the state where he was born and another key state that, if it goes to the Democratic candidate, could put Trump’s re-election hopes out of reach.
Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden will address the nation on election night on Tuesday from his home base in the state of Delaware, his campaign said.
Biden, who leads President Donald Trump in national polls, will be joined by vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris, the campaign said.
While a result may be decided on election night, it could easily take until early Wednesday, or even several days later, to have a clear winner given the high number of mail-in ballots and limits on some states’ ability to start counting those votes until polls open on November 3.
An event in support of Joe Biden in Austin, Texas was reportedly cancelled after a pro-Trump caravan harassed a campaign bus on Friday, according to US media reports and witness accounts shared on social media.
Historian Eric Cervini, who was travelling with the Biden campaign bus, filmed a line of pickup trucks – several of which sported pro-Trump flags – that he said “surrounded the bus on the interstate and attempted to drive it off the road”.
I flew down to Texas to help with the Biden/Harris bus tour, intended to drum up enthusiasm at polling locations. Instead, I ended up spending the afternoon calling 911. 1/ pic.twitter.com/gKAjv7gv85
— Dr. Eric Cervini (@ericcervini) October 31, 2020
“They outnumbered police 50-1, and they ended up hitting a staffer’s car,” he added.
A Biden campaign staffer confirmed that account to the Daily Beast, saying the trucks slowed down in front of the bus. Staffers called police, who helped the bus get to its destination, the US news outlet reported, but Trump supporters with signs and megaphones surrounded the bus when it arrived.
A Democratic Texas state representative later tweeted that the event was cancelled because “pro-Trump protestors have escalated well beyond safe limits”. The Biden campaign’s Texas communications director told the Daily Beat that holding the event would have put attendees and staffers at risk.
This is a 1st for me – but we just cancelled a joint event in Pflugerville w/ @JoeBiden campaign, @AustinYoungDems, & more, due to security reasons. Unfortunately, Pro-Trump Protestors have escalated well beyond safe limits. Sorry to all who looked forward to this fun event. https://t.co/tSq4moqro0
— Sheryl Cole (@SherylCole1) October 30, 2020
Melania Trump, who has been holding solo campaign events in support of her husband this week, addressed a crowd in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Saturday.
At the event in West Bend, the first lady urged voters to return Donald Trump to the White House.
She also noted Saturday’s announcement that an American citizen kidnapped in Niger this week was rescued in a US military operation in neighbouring Nigeria.
“Our administration is committed to fully protecting the American people and supporting our men and women in uniform,” the first lady said.
Economic researchers at Stanford University say 18 Donald Trump campaign rallies over the past few months “ultimately resulted” in more than 30,000 “incremental confirmed cases of COVID-19” and “likely led to more than 700 deaths”.
The study compared the rate of COVID-19 infections in 18 counties where Trump held rallies between June 20 and September 20 after those events, and compared it with infection rates in comparable counties where a rally was not held.
The researchers noted that COVID-19 cases or deaths were not necessarily among rally attendees, but were connected to cases that stemmed from each event.
The Biden campaign on Saturday said the study added to a “mounting body of evidence” that Trump’s insistence on holding in-person rallies is directly connected to COVID-19 outbreaks across the US, which has reported more than nine million cases and more than 230,000 deaths to date.
Biden, campaigning in Michigan on Saturday, called for an end to a presidency that has “divided this nation”.
“Three days, we can put an end to a presidency that has divided this nation … Three days, we can put an end to a presidency that has failed to protect this nation,” Biden said in Flint, at the first of two events in the state on Saturday.
“Three days, we can put an end to a presidency that has fanned the flames of hate all around this country and made us a laughing stock around the world.”
Polling averages currently show Biden leading Trump in the northern rust-belt state by 6.5 percentage points. Trump won Michigan’s 17 electoral votes in 2016 by the slim margin of 0.3 percentage points, after opponent Hillary Clinton failed to energise voters there.
Speaking at the first of two Biden campaign events in Michigan on Saturday, former US President Barack Obama stressed that a Biden-Harrison White House would be less “exhausting” than a Trump second term.
“You’ll be able to get on with your lives knowing that the president is not going to suggest we inject bleach as a possible cure for COVID,” Obama said at a rally in the city of Flint.
“You won’t wake up in the morning and look at your phone, ‘Oh news flash, the president retweeted conspiracy theories that the Navy SEALs didn’t actually kill bin Laden.’ You’re not going to have a president who goes out of his way to insult people just because they don’t support him.”
While early voting has surged across the US, Pennsylvania, a key state in the 2020 presidential contest, has seen only one in three voters cast their ballots so far, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett reported.
Halkett, reporting from a Trump rally in Reading, said the Republican president’s backers, unsurprisingly, are adamant that he will again win Pennsylvania.
One Trump supporter, Sandy Battista, told Al Jazeera she believes there are many “hidden Trump voters” who are afraid to publicly show their support for him.
Another rally attendee, Edward X Young, who donned a green “Keep America Great” cap, said he does not believe recent polls showing Trump is trailing Biden. “This is my 45th rally,” he said.
Speaking in Newtown, Pennsylvania, Trump decried a Supreme Court decision that allows the state to count mail ballots that arrive up to three days after November 3 as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
The Supreme Court also recently allowed North Carolina to count ballots post-marked by Election Day if they arrive within nine days of November 3.
Trump told supporters that “bad things” can happen to ballots in the days following the election, adding “you’re going to have bedlam in our country” if a result isn’t determined shortly after the election.
With an unprecedented rate of mail-in voting, spurred in part by the COVID-19 crisis, and the fact that several states cannot begin counting the ballots until Election Day, a result that takes several days remains a very real possibility.
But the president continues to cast doubt on election results if they are not determined immediately after the election, which experts say threatens to stoke unrest if there is a prolonged period of uncertainty over a winner.
Biden poked fun on Saturday at Trump’s repeated claims that the former vice president has been hiding in his “basement” during the election campaign.
Biden has taken a cautious approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, staying close to home early in the campaign and giving speeches from isolation. “Who let all these people into my basement?” the Democratic candidate tweeted, with a photo from a drive-in rally of supporters in Michigan.
Trump, in contrast, has continued to hold in-person rallies, despite a new surge in COVID-19 cases in some parts of the country. He tweeted a video on Saturday urging people to “vote early and in person”.
So far, registered Democrats have outpaced registered Republicans in early voting, about 46 percent to 30 percent, according to the US Elections Project.
Who let all these people into my basement? pic.twitter.com/E17SPqmXib
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 31, 2020
Trump held his first of four Pennsylvania rallies Saturday in the town of Newtown.
In three days, the president said, “this is the state that will save the American dream”, underscoring the importance of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral college votes to his path to victory.
Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania in 2016 by a margin of just 0.7 percent of the votes in the state, a one-time Democratic bastion that had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
“You voted for an outsider as president who is finally putting America first,” Trump said. “If these corrupt forces succeed in electing Joe Biden, Washington will see to it that another outsider never becomes president again. It’ll never happen again.”
At least 90,055,033 million US citizens have already cast ballots in the November 3 election, in a combination of mail and in-person early voting, according to the US Elections Project.
The number represents 65.3 percent of all ballots counted in 2016. As of Saturday, early ballots in at least two states – Texas and Hawaii – had already surpassed their entire 2016 turnout.
Just 47.2 million US citizens voted early in 2016.
Trump on Saturday is set to hold four events in Pennsylvania, a state that has 20 electoral college votes and is considered extremely important to victory for either candidate.
RealClearPolitics reports that polling averages show Biden with a 3.7 percentage-point lead in the state over Trump, who won Pennsylvania by a 0.7-percent margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
That’s a thinner advantage for Biden than he holds in the northern rust belt states of Michigan and Wisconsin, which Trump also won in 2016.
“We’re spending the day in Pennsylvania. And I think we’re doing extremely well with the votes,” Trump told reporters as he boarded Air Force One on Saturday. “It’s going to be a very interesting three days. It’s going to be a very interesting Tuesday.”
“A big red wave has formed. We’re doing very well,” he said.
Biden is entering the final weekend of the presidential campaign with an intense focus on appealing to Black voters, whose support will be critical in his bid to defeat Trump.
The Democratic nominee is set to team up on Saturday with his former boss, Barack Obama, in Michigan. They will hold drive-in rallies in Flint and Detroit, predominantly Black cities where strong turnout will be essential to return the longtime Democratic state to Biden’s column after Trump won Michigan in 2016 by a razor-thin margin of just 0.3 percent.
Trump, meanwhile, is making an aggressive play for nearby Pennsylvania, focusing largely on his white, working-class base in four campaign stops on Saturday that will stretch from the state’s far-eastern corner near Philadelphia to its western edge north of Pittsburgh.
As Election Day approaches, Trump and Biden are making their final pitches to American voters, touting what is to come and, especially, boasting about their accomplishments.
From a border wall with Mexico, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, cutting taxes, and creating jobs, we break down Trump’s five biggest promises from his 2016 campaign to measure the progress he has made as president.
Read more here.
The American Medical Association, the largest group of physicians and medical students in the US, has slammed Trump’s suggestion during a Friday night rally in Michigan that doctors are inflating the country’s coronavirus death count to get more money.
“Our doctors get more money if somebody dies from COVID. You know that, right? I mean our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is they say, ‘I’m sorry but everybody dies of COVID,'” Trump said, without citing any evidence.
The medical organisation rejected the president’s comments, calling them “malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided”.
“Rather than attacking us and lobbing baseless charges at physicians, our leaders should be following the science and urging adherence to the public health steps we know work – wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing physical distancing,” the AMA said in a statement on Friday.