RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- As President Donald Trump’s path to victory appears to shrink, at least two rallies are expected over the weekend in Greater Richmond.
“Stop the Steal” protests are popping up across the country in response to President Donald Trump’s claims–without evidence–that illegal ballots are contributing to former Vice President Joe Biden’s late comeback in some swing states.
As ongoing absentee ballot counts slowly closed the gap between candidates, President Trump held a press conference on Thursday evening that appeared to ignite the spree of expected protests.
“We will not allow the corruption to steal such an important election or any election for that matter,” President Trump said.
On Friday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) posted on Facebook encouraging supporters to turn out this weekend in Richmond. Chase refused to do an interview on Friday. Philip Search, her campaign’s senior strategist, said Chase is planning to speak out over voter fraud concerns in Virginia and elsewhere. Search didn’t cite any specific incidents or evidence to back up her concerns.
On Friday, Facebook confirmed to 8News that the company took down a page encouraging ‘Stop the Steal’ protests nationwide. A spokesperson explained their position in a statement:
“In line with the exceptional measures that we are taking during this period of heightened tension, we have removed the Group ‘Stop the Steal,’ which was creating real-world events. The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.”Facebook Spokesperson Kristen Morea
Former Richmond City Council candidate Mike Dickinson is planning a separate protest in Henrico on Saturday. Asked what specific incidents of voter fraud are prompting the demonstration, Dickinson cited a resolved issue with absentee ballots in Henrico County. Dickinson said, even though he isn’t aware of any other public examples in Virginia, he’s concerned about problems happening behind the scenes.
“A lot of people are losing faith that there is no justice in America, that you can just cheat your way into the White House and we can’t have that,” Dickinson said.
Amid concerns over unrest, Sen. Chase’s campaign and Dickinson are both calling for peaceful protests.
“Everything we have done is peaceful. We have never been violent. I do not condone violence,” Dickinson said.
The Republican Party of Virginia declined to do an interview on Friday. Asked if the party is supporting the message behind the rallies, RPV Spokesperson John March said, “We don’t have enough details to take a stance.”
Meanwhile, Democrats in Virginia are celebrating what they consider a likely victory for Biden.
“First of all, Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States,” said former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a campaign surrogate for Biden. “More people need to stand up and say enough is enough. It is over.”
Asked about the rallies, McAuliffe said he supports free speech but called on more Republicans to condemn President Trump’s claims.
“You can make your noise but don’t make up falsehoods about an election because you’re harming America,” McAuliffe said. “To all of these fledging democracies who look to us as a symbol of democracy, you’re not helping the cause.”
Virginia Capitol Police and Richmond Police confirmed they are prepared for demonstrations this weekend. Asked if there have been any specific threats of violence, RPD Spokesperson Chelsea Rarrick sent the following statement:
“The Department does not disclose tactical information. However, The Richmond Police Department is prepared and dedicated to ensuring public safety. We will work to keep citizens safe while supporting the public’s right to free speech.“RPD Spokesperson Chelsea.Rarrick