As Washington, D.C. readies for protests Tuesday and Wednesday, the city will restrict much of its downtown, call on its entire police force to stand by and activate the National Guard in preparation.
City officials said they expect potentially thousands of people to gather in Washington both Tuesday and Wednesday, as many of the president’s supporters continue to protest the November election results. President Trump, who has yet to concede the election, continues to encourage the marches, which have turned violent in recent months.
For this week, the National Park Service has issued a permit to Women for America First, one of the groups linked to the protests, which are organized under the name “Stop the Steal.”
The group has already begun setting up a stage on The Ellipse, the lawn just outside White House grounds.
“I am asking Washingtonians and those who live in the region to stay out of the downtown area on Tuesday and Wednesday and not to engage with demonstrators who come to our city seeking confrontation,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said Sunday.
Still, Mayor Bowser urged calm as some 340 National Guard troops were being activated while the city prepared for the potentially violent protests surrounding Congress’ expected vote to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
A U.S. defense official says the D.C. National Guard will be used at Mayor Muriel Bowser's request to help with expected protests this week but will not be armed or wearing body armor. The Guard will be used for traffic control and other assistance.
The city has already announced that several streets accounting for most of downtown will be closed to parking and that traffic will be restricted in those areas. Some businesses also began boarding up their windows in preparation for the rallies.
On Sunday, officials also posted signs in the downtown area reminding people of D.C. gun restrictions.
"We have received some information that there are individuals intent on bringing firearms into our city,” said police chief Robert Contee Monday. “That just will not be tolerated."
In D.C., it is illegal to openly carry a gun, and it is illegal to carry at all on federal property such as the National Mall, where protesters often gather. Firearms are also not allowed within 1,000 feet of a protest.
In an interview, protest organizer Ali Alexander said he expects caravans of the president’s supporters coming to Washington D.C. from all over the country, including dozens of charter buses and tens of thousands of cars.
In recent, similar marches, the number of pro-Trump protesters has been exaggerated. In November, for example, the “Million MAGA March” likely drew tens of thousands of people, nowhere near one million or more, as claimed by people like the president’s press secretary.
No matter the size of the protest, Congress is likely to count the electoral votes as they were cast and affirm Biden’s win, despite challenges that will delay the process.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.