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Election Day violence fears: Police, FBI prepare as gun sales up, businesses board windows

Police car lights. (Alexandru Cuznetov/Dreamstime/TNS)

U.S. authorities and businesses are preparing amid fears of Election Day violence and post-election unrest.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Washington-based think tank Police Executive Research Forum, tells Time magazine that tensions will be high on Nov. 3 as millions of Americans cast votes in national, state and local elections. With long lines at poll sites and short tempers due to months of dealing with the coronavirus and protests over social justice, arguments over face masks or voter eligibility could quickly erupt.

“It’s fair to say the police are preparing in ways they never would have had to for Election Day,” Wexler said. “Because this election is more important than it has been in years, you’re going to have people that are going to have frayed nerves… You can easily have some kind of confrontation.”

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that federal and state law enforcement officials have been conducting drills, running through worse-case scenarios, and setting up command centers to improve coordination on reports of violence and voter intimidation. President Donald Trump has partly stoked concerns by repeatedly claimed without evidence that the presidential election could be rigged, and encouraged his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.”

Threats leading up to the election include six men who were arrested by the FBI for plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a Texas man, Ivan Hunter, who was charged with firing 13 shots from an AK-47 type rifle into a Minneapolis police station overrun and set on fire by Black Lives Matter protesters in May. The Justice Department says Hunter, 26, is a member of the “Boogaloo Bois,” a far-right extremist group accused of trying to start a second civil war in the U.S.

Time reports New York City will have police officers stationed at more than 1,200 polling sites on Nov. 3 with hundreds more “at the ready” this week, and Michigan election officials have announced a ban on the open carry of guns at or near polls in the state on Election Day.

KGW reports Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Monday that the Oregon city is working out a mutual aid agreement with state and federal law enforcement.

“It has to be done in a way that is not alarmist and doesn’t suggest that this type of activity is expected to be widespread,” Wheeler said. “And it needs to very carefully distinguish between peaceful protest and acts of violence.”

There have also been reports of the National Guard being deployed in Texas and Washington state, but the adjutant general of the Texas Army National Guard said there are no plans to dispatch 1,000 troops to polling locations in Texas, despite reports otherwise.

“The Texas National Guard continues to support DPS guarding historical landmarks such as the Alamo and the State Capitol,” Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris said in a statement Monday. “To be clear, there has been no request nor plan to provide any type of support at any polling location in Texas.”

Texas Guard spokesman Brandon Jones told the San Antonio Express-News that guardsmen could be deployed before or after the election, but have not been asked to go to any polling locations yet.

Businesses are also preparing for potential violence on Election Day or afterwards as the results in many races may not be known for weeks. Photos from Getty Images show stores in Washington, D.C.’s business district — a short distance from the White House — boarding up windows Monday in case of a riot, and TMZ reports Beverly Hills’ pricy shops on Rodeo Drive are doing the same.

USA Today reports a number of Americans are preparing for sustained violence after the election, stocking up on toilet paper and other supplies, including guns.

“It just seemed, well, stupid isn’t the right word, but it doesn’t make sense to be that ill-prepared,” Colorado resident Tabitha Converse, a lifelong Republican who voted Democrat in the presidential race for the first time this year, told USA Today. “A civil war? That could last for years. We don’t have years’ worth of supplies and if it went on for years, well, you could always go out and shoot a deer.”

According to FBI statistics, gun dealers in June ran more than 3.9 million background checks on firearm purchasers — the highest ever recorded in a single month. In the first nine months of 2020, more FBI background checks were conducted than in all of 2019, which saw a record 28.3 million. The AP also points out that each background check could be for the sale of more than one gun.

Business Insider reports Viana Ferguson, a former Facebook content moderator, said social media users have become more vocal about the “violence they are willing to execute” from 2016 to 2019.

“There’s going to be a wave of hate speech. It’s definitely going to be more violent,” Ferguson said during a panel hosted by the nonprofit Real Facebook Oversight Board on Monday. “It’s going to happen; it doesn’t matter who wins. Facebook needs to be prepared for that.”


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