Conspiracy-Driven Demonstrators Protest at Maricopa County Election Building

At several points protesters prayed, saying that God will decide the election.EXPAND
At several points protesters prayed, saying that God will decide the election.
Erasmus Baxter
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Over a hundred people gathered in front of the Maricopa County Elections Department in Phoenix tonight, demanding that election workers "count the votes."

Elections officials on the inside continued to do that, and plan to publish results shortly. Meanwhile, Trump supporters in states that did not seem to be going as well for the president gathered to demand that election officials stop counting votes.

In both cases, supporters of President Donald Trump alleged that there were improprieties with the voting process, despite a lack of evidence that was the case.

Early today, an unfounded conspiracy theory that Arizona Republican's ballots weren't being counted due to the use of Sharpies spread on social media, despite the fact county officials distributed Sharpies universally and said there was no such issue. Trump and his allies have repeatedly attempted to sow doubt about the election process, particularly as his prospects of winning have looked worse.

The crowd here drew a fringe element. AZ Patriots leader Jennifer Harrison, currently charged with identity theft, showed up and told the crowd about her exploits, including how she had been kicked out of her position as a vote observer in a previous election and been sued for harassing asylum seekers. She claimed that the votes were taking so long because the results were being changed.

Also present and speaking to the crowd was conspiracy theorist, sexual-assault-apologist, and Trump supporter Mike Cernovich.

Some talking points among protesters were that it was suspicious to be taking so long to get results this year and that it was also suspicious that results in California were called by the media so quickly. California is a heavily Democratic state, making it easy for media outlets to predict the results, but no official results were released there yet. In Arizona, it's not unusual for mail-in votes to take several days to be counted.

Protesters demanded that they be admitted into the building where votes were being counted. U.S. Representative Paul Gosar showed up and occasionally tried to convince Sherrif's deputies guarding the entrance to let him in, while the crowd chanted "Let him in!"

The assembled group also chanted "Count the votes," "Stop the steal," and at one point, "Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing wrong." After pizzas arrived and were passed around, the crowd chanted "Pizzagate" — in reference to a conspiracy theory spread by Cernovich which claimed Hillary Clinton was involved in pedophilia, and which led to a man shooting up a pizza parlor.

Despite the presence of a number of men openly carrying assault-style rifles, things stayed largely peaceful besides a few charged confrontations. When one young man carrying a Trump flag and a long gun joked to his likewise armed friend that "tonight is the start of the civil war," a man draped in a Trump flag next to him disagreed, causing him to clarify that he meant "politically, not aggressively."

This was a different group of men with guns.EXPAND
This was a different group of men with guns.
Erasmus Baxter

Despite what some national media reporters said, the crowd did not disrupt the voting counting process. After their shift ended at 10:30 p.m., elections workers uneventfully walked to their cars escorted by deputies.

One of the protest leaders repeatedly warned people over the megaphone to watch their rhetoric as the media was present. He led protesters in prayer, saying that was the image they wanted to be seen. Local, national, and international media were all present, sometimes becoming the target of ire from the protesters, and often identifiable as the few people wearing masks

A second large group of protesters arrived shortly after 9 p.m. and were more rambunctious, confronting the few counter-protesters who showed up.

By around 11 p.m., the scene had calmed down and the crowd had halved. Most of those who remained were crowded around a young woman who was arguing with them while her friend live-streamed. Four armed men with tactical gear posed for a news camera in the back of the parking lot.

While some Republican representatives embraced the protests, others were less enthusiastic. Republican T.J. Shope who serves as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the Arizona House of Representatives called the protests "completely illogical."

Logical or not, protest leaders vowed to return tomorrow at 6 p.m.

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