Phoenix, Arizona – Outside the Maricopa County Elections Department, hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump rallied for a fourth consecutive day, insisting the Democratic Party had stolen the election.
The demonstrators took turns addressing the crowd and kneeling to pray for Trump. At times, they broke out in chants of “four more years” and “back the blue”.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
Several protesters wore hats reading “Make America great again”, while others had flags or T-shirts that referenced QAnon – the widespread conspiracy theory that Trump is waging a secret war on child sex traffickers.
Many in the crowd carried rifles or wore holstered firearms as the protesters taunted local media crews who stood on the other side of a fence.
“We forgive you for being traitors to our country,” an armed demonstrator shouted at the journalists.
Adel Belgaied, who held the megaphone for much of the afternoon, led the crowd in a prayer.
“Lord, a lot of us are confused why dead people’s ballots were received, why it takes 600,000 votes four days to be counted – and they’re still not finished,” he said.
While addressing the crowd outside the election centre, the protest leader also recycled a host of conspiracy theories, suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic was a hoax, that Democrats plan to implement communism in the US, and that social media companies had interfered in the elections against Trump and the Republican Party.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Belgaied claimed ballots cast for Trump had been tossed out because the voters had used Sharpie felt-tip markers on them – a claim Arizona’s secretary of state has dismissed as a conspiracy theory.
Addressing the QAnon conspiracy theory, he said: “Children are being sex trafficked. That’s not a conspiracy theory.”
Belgaied said protesters had travelled from Tucson and as far as Los Angeles to rally outside the election centre in Phoenix, adding that he and other demonstrators intend to gather affidavits of voting irregularities to pass on to Trump’s campaign team.
Nicholas Tutora, who unsuccessfully ran for office in Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District, said Trump supporters should continue protesting the results. “I think there should be nonviolent resistance, protests – things like that,” he told Al Jazeera.
“They minimise Trump supporters, they minimise people who believe in the Constitution and traditional values, so I think it’s important to show them what we really are,” he added.
Without evidence, Tutora claimed that coronavirus lockdowns had been part of a broad plan to force voters to cast their ballots by mail, although he did not cast doubt on the virus itself. “The response was planned for one thing: to frighten people, to shut them down, and to manipulate the mail-in votes,” he said.
Small groups of counter-protesters showed up throughout the afternoon, but there were no scuffles. Some motorists drove by waving Mexican flags or Biden-Harris 2020 placards from their windows.