While the streets of many American cities erupted in joy Saturday at the news of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, hardcore Donald Trump supporters refused to accept the result, alleging fraud and conspiracy.
In cities including Phoenix, Philadelphia and Atlanta, the outgoing president’s loyalists gathered under the slogan of #StopTheSteal, repeating Trump’s unfounded allegations that Biden’s win was based on cheating.
They wore red Trump hats, held signs reading “Stop The Steal” and waved American flags or Trump banners bearing the slogan: “Keep America Great.”
The scenes were familiar to anyone who has attended or tuned in to a Trump rally.
Hundreds gathered in front of the Arizona state capitol building in Phoenix, Arizona, some with their dogs dressed in Trump shirts.
“I think they’re way too early,” said Donna McCollum, a retired 77-year-old who said she can trace her family history back to the American revolution.
“The electoral college is the one to decide. And that has not been decided just yet. And there’s a lot of fraud here. It needs to be either redone totally or recounted.”
She added: “Look at these people out here. There’s no way Biden won Arizona.”
Two news organizations have projected Biden as the winner in Arizona, but others have been more cautious with the vote totals close and counting continuing.
But either way, Biden has already obtained more than enough electoral votes to win, according to US media projections based on vote counts.
– ‘Ground zero for cheating’ –
Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes was the state that put him over the 270 needed for victory, and Trump supporters there also baselessly alleged fraud, following the lead of the outgoing president.
In Philadelphia, the biggest city in Pennsylvania, around 40 Trump supporters were outside a convention center where counting had been underway, blasting hard rock and staples of Trump rallies like “YMCA” and “God Bless the USA.”
Nearby Biden supporters were happily dancing to the same music.
“This is ground zero for cheating in this election. I thought it was important to be here,” said Steve Padgett, a 57-year-old who works in sales.
Sophia Rotunno, a 52-year-old administrative worker, said: “I have faith that our President Donald Trump did win a fair election.”
“But the Democrats are not allowing a fair election to be had,” she said, falsely. “So I feel it has to go to the courts.”
Despite his loss, Trump inspired a fervent, loyal following among many in the United States as he shattered norms with his bombastic populism.
But there was also a darker side to some of his support that Trump could at times encourage by retweeting conspiracy theories and declining to forcefully condemn white supremacy.
With the election occurring at a fevered time that has seen waves of protests over the police killing of minorities and Trump often inflaming tensions, there had been fears of election-related violence in some cities.
But those fears have not been realized, and many supporters from both sides on Saturday appeared intent on keeping the peace.
– ‘Too much smoke’ –
On Saturday afternoon, a group of Biden supporters in Atlanta were armed – which is legal in Georgia – as they stood across from a pro-Trump protest, but there had been no violence.
Trump supporters have regularly shown up at rallies armed, but guns could not be seen among Saturday’s pro-Trump crowd in Atlanta.
“There’s too much smoke and some fire in a lot of places,” said Huff Croxton, a 51-year-old who wore an American flag as a cape, referring to groundless allegations of electoral fraud.
“I want to see all this settled out and let’s see at the end who wins. And if Biden wins fair and square, then I’ll jump on board with the media.”
In Phoenix, Shannon Morris, a 51-year-old trauma recovery life coach, said she would “fight” for Trump, but in a “peaceful way.”
“I think that Trump fought for our country, and I’m going to fight for him,” she said.
“Not in an inappropriate way, in a peaceful way, in a good way, in an honest way. I want my voice heard. It’s wrong to win elections by fraud.”