US election: Michigan attorney general tells Trump supporters to ‘stop making harassing and threatening calls’ as tensions mount

Demonstrations seen in Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Las Vegas as wait for result goes on

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 06 November 2020 16:31
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Related video: Nevada election official: 'I am concerned about the safety of my staff'

Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel has taken to Twitter to warn supporters of Donald Trump to stop harassing state election officials as tensions mount nationwide with the country awaiting the final outcome of Tuesday’s presidential ballot.

“Dear members of the public: Please stop making harassing & threatening calls to my staff,” Ms Nessel tweeted.

“They are kind, hardworking public servants just doing their job. Asking them to shove sharpies in uncomfortable places is never appropriate & is a sad commentary on the state of our nation.”

Ms Nessel was referring to a false conspiracy theory about Republican voters being wrongly instructed to fill out their ballot papers with Sharpie markers instead of regular pens to ensure their votes would not be counted by tally machines.

As of Friday afternoon, Mr Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden appears to be on course for victory in what has been a nail-biting week, with vote counts still being finalised and four key battlegrounds – Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania – yet to declare their results.

Michigan has been called for Mr Biden, prompting pro-Trump demonstrators to try to storm Detroit’s TCF convention centre on Thursday to express their outrage, echoing the president’s rhetoric in insisting that “fraud” is at play, despite no evidence having arisen to prove the allegation.

They held aloft signs that read "Stop the steal" and "Stop the cheat".

Similar scenes have been witnessed in cities like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Atlanta, Georgia, with Mr Trump’s supporters seeking to heap additional pressure on election officials.

In Atlanta, roughly 100 chanting MAGA demonstrators gathered outside State Farm Arena as votes were being counted. Several police officers monitored the scene, braced for unrest.

Tom Haas, 50, who said he was visiting Atlanta from Chicago on business, said he was convinced the president had won the election.

"There's obvious voter fraud, and it's coming out of the larger Democratic-run cities," he said. "Atlanta is one of them."

"Our democracy is under attack," Mr Haas said, parroting Mr Trump's language.

Perhaps the most alarming spectacle so far came in Phoenix, Arizona, where supporters of the president armed with lethal assault rifles came together in front of the Maricopa County Election Centre to form a “freedom of speech zone” and chant: “Count the votes!” The facility was temporarily closed to protect staff.

Ironically, their message was the diametric opposite of Mr Trump’s, who had initially called on the US Supreme Court to “stop the count” in his address at the White House in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The red state was called early for Mr Biden by Fox News on election night, a significant flip handing him 11 Electoral College votes and prompting a heated rift between the White House and Rupert Murdoch’s conservative network, only for the Associated Press to agree with Fox’s assessment and likewise mark it blue.

Since then, as more postal votes have been counted, the Democrat’s lead appears to have diminished, adding to the mood of uncertainty.

Arizona’s secretary of state Katie Hobbs, speaking on CNN, said her main concern was staff safety but that sheriff's deputies were providing protection.

Like Ms Nessel, she warned protesters were "causing delay and disruption and preventing those employees from doing their job".

Supporters of Mr Trump have also demonstrated in Las Vegas, Nevada, with Christian supporters kneeling on the steps of the Clark County Election Department to pray that “righteousness prevails”.

State officials have pleaded for patience there too.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a coalition of democratic interest groups, calling itself Protect the Results, marched in Washington Square Park with its members bearing placards reading: “Every Vote Counts/Count Every Vote”.

An equivalent event was also held in Philadelphia and likened to a “dance party” by commentators on Twitter, with one individual dressed in a Philadelphia Flyers mascot costume dancing with revellers who brandished signs and bunches of red, white and blue balloons.

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