The demonstrators came to the downtown intersection in front of Philadelphia’s convention centre prepared to give Eric Trump, Rudy Giuliani and others on the president’s campaign team an earful about democracy and the importance of counting all votes.
“They’re not welcome here,” said Sula Kritikos, a lawyer. “All I know is my vote has not been counted. And I’m here to let people know my vote has not been counted.”
But Team Trump never showed up at their planned news conference at the intersection. Instead, they held it in front of Atlantic Aviation near the Philadelphia International Airport, away from the protesters.
They announced the launching of a lawsuit to address the “massive cheating” they allege is going on in the state with the tallying of the votes.
“It’s a shame that we have to do that. It’s the last thing that we wanted to do. It’s the last thing my father wanted to do, but this is rampant corruption and it can’t happen,” said Eric Trump, son of U.S. President Donald Trump.
There have actually been no reports of fraud or any other type of ballot concerns out of Pennsylvania. The state had more than 3.1 million mail-in ballots, which take time to count, and an order allows them to be counted up until Friday if they are postmarked on or before Nov. 3.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden edged closer to victory on Wednesday, with wins in Michigan and Wisconsin bringing his electoral vote total to 253 compared to Donald Trump’s 214. A candidate needs 270 electoral college votes to win the presidency.
Pennsylvania, one of the surprise Rust Belt states that went to Trump in his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, holds 20 electoral votes. Those would be enough to earn Biden the White House. So far, the numbers suggest Trump is leading in the state, but that lead is shrinking as more votes are counted.
‘Temporarily halt counting’
But Justin Clark, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement on Wednesday that the campaign is “suing to stop Democrat election officials from hiding the ballot counting and processing from … Republican poll observers.”
He said the campaign wants “to temporarily halt counting until there is meaningful transparency and Republicans can ensure all counting is done above board and by the law.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a news conference the state is going to fight “every single attempt to disenfranchise voters.”
“These attempts to subvert the democratic process are simply disgraceful,” he said.
WATCH | Protesters converge on Pennsylvania as counting continues:
Team Trump’s presence in Philadelphia, along with the dozens of protesters ready to shout them down, and the dozens of police officers standing by, highlighted the elevated tensions in the city of brotherly love over the counting of votes.
“Just making sure all votes are counted, all legitimate votes are counted,” said Tom McCarthy, one of the protesters who had come downtown to protest Team Trump.
“The move to stop the counting of votes, particularly during a pandemic, seems like a move to steal the election.”
‘He knows what ballots do’
Other, more vocal social activists also showed up at the intersection, many reciting what they consider to be Trump’s list of crimes.
“He wants to shut down this election … he knows what ballots do,” said Samantha Rise.
A few Trump supporters also swung by, and while the rhetoric heated up at times between the anti-Trump and pro-Trump sides, under the watchful eyes of dozens of police officers, it never escalated beyond words.
Steve Faust, who works near the intersection, also came by to see what the commotion was about. A Biden supporter, Faust said he was shocked at how well Trump had performed in the state.
“I just can’t believe it’s as close as it is. It’s so disappointing to know that this many people think things are just peachy keen and just [willing] to vote him in again. I just don’t understand it.”
The scene unfolded under the backdrop of the city’s convention centre, where election workers were still tabulating the votes. In fact, the Philadelphia city commissioners were live streaming that work.
The protesters and journalists eventually dispersed as word got out that the news conference wouldn’t be happening.
Not long after, however, a couple hundred more people gathered in front of city hall for a similar protest, many holding banners that read, “Count every vote” and ‘Black votes matter.”
What do you want to know about the U.S. election? Email us at Ask@cbc.ca.