A group waving Trump flags and chanting “four more years” created a commotion at a polling location in Fairfax, Va. A county official said some voters and staff members felt intimidated.
Supporters of President Trump gathered outside the Fairfax County Government Center with flags and banners, chanting near residents who were waiting in line for early voting.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times
- Sept. 19, 2020
A group of Trump supporters waving campaign flags disrupted the second day of early voting in Fairfax, Va., on Saturday, chanting “four more years” as voters entered a polling location and, at one point, forming a line that voters had to walk around outside the site.
County election officials eventually were forced to open up a larger portion of the Fairfax County Government Center to allow voters to wait inside away from the Trump enthusiasts.
Election officials said that the group stayed about 100 feet from the entrance to the building and, contrary to posts on social media, were not directly blocking access to the building. But they acknowledged that some voters and polling staff members felt intimidated by what some saw as protesters.
“Citizens coming into and leaving the building did have to go by them,” Gary Scott, the general registrar of Fairfax County, said in a statement. “Those voters who were in line outside of the building were moved inside and we continued operations. Some voters, and elections staff, did feel intimidated by the crowd and we did provide escorts past the group. One of the escorts was the county executive.”
In an unnerved electorate, where concerns about voting rights and safely voting amid the coronavirus pandemic are at a fever pitch, the demonstration outside of a polling place served as preview of a likely contentious election season, and how groups may be utilizing tactics that rattle or even deter voters over the next six weeks.
The disruption came as President Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine confidence in the upcoming election, spreading falsehoods about voting by mail and declaring the election “rigged” before any votes have even been cast.
The demonstration originated from a “Trump Train” parade that began in nearby Prince William County and featured Tommy Hicks Jr., the current Republican National Committee co-chairman. The event was set to end in the parking lot of the government center, which was also serving as the polling location on Saturday. Some of the people who attended the parade walked over to vote. Others gathered outside and began chanting, “four more years, four more years!”
Sean Rastatter, a vice chair at the Fairfax County Republican Committee who was at the polling location, said that he did not think any actions came close to voter intimidation, and that many of the discussions from members of the group were with journalists.
“I don’t think there was any way to need or feel intimidated in any form,” Mr. Rastatter said. He added that county officials asked the group on several instances to back away from the curb, and that the group complied.
Bryan Graham, the chairman of the Fairfax County Democrats who was also at the polling center, saw it differently, writing on Twitter that “the Republicans are straight-up attempting to intimidate voters at the government center.”