President Donald Trump urged Washington DC police not to “hold back” in cracking down on “antifa scum” in a shockingly violent tweet late Saturday.
Trump was reacting to street confrontations that erupted Saturday night between leftover members of a march earlier in the day protesting his loss in the presidential election, and counterprotesters.
Two police officers were injured, and a man in his 20s was in critical condition after he was stabbed in the back.
The Proud Boys hate group clashed at various times with counterprotesters, witnesses reported.
In one videotaped scene a large number of men in what appeared to be typical clothing worn by the Proud Boys battled with counterprotesters and chanted: “F**k antifa.”
Though Trump spent the middle of the day golfing at his club in Sterling, Virginia, he claimed to know exactly what happened in Washington.
He tweeted that “antifa scum ran for the hills” earlier in the day because people at the “Trump Rally ... aggressively fought back.” But they returned to “attack innocent MAGA people.” He urged: “DC police, get going — do your job and don’t hold back!!!”
Critics on Twitter were appalled that Trump seized the opportunity to yet again inflame violence.
Several other US cities saw gatherings of Trump supporters unwilling to accept Democrat Joe Biden’s Electoral College and popular vote victory, PA Media reports.
Cries of “stop the steal” and “count every vote” continued in spite of a lack of evidence of voter fraud or other problems that could reverse the result.
After night fell, the relatively peaceful demonstrations in Washington turned from tense to violent.
Videos posted on social media showed fistfights, projectiles and clubs as Trump supporters clashed with those demanding they take their banners and leave.
The tensions extended into Sunday morning. A variety of charges, including assault and weapons possession, were filed against those arrested, officials said.
Two police officers were injured and several firearms were recovered.
Trump himself had given an approving nod to the gathering on Saturday morning by dispatching his motorcade through streets lined with supporters before rolling on to his Virginia golf club.
People chanted “USA, USA” and “four more years”, and many carried American flags and signs to show their displeasure with the vote tally and insistence that, as Trump has baselessly asserted, fraud was the reason.
“I just want to keep up his spirits and let him know we support him,” said one loyalist, Anthony Whittaker of Winchester, Virginia.
He was outside the Supreme Court, where a few thousand assembled after a march along Pennsylvania Avenue from Freedom Plaza, near the White House.