Armed 'guards' show up at Florida voting station after Trump 'urged' them to
Trump has a history of encouraging his supporters to commit violence against his perceived enemies.
Two armed men dressed in security uniforms showed up to a St. Petersburg, Florida, polling station on Wednesday, according to local officials.
The two men set up a tent outside an early voting location in downtown St. Petersburg on Wednesday.
The armed “guards” claimed they were working for a licensed private security company that had been hired by Donald Trump’s reelection campaign to monitor the polls, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
The Trump campaign has vehemently denied the men’s claim.
“The campaign did not hire these individuals nor did the campaign direct them to go to the voting location,” Thea McDonald, the Trump campaign’s deputy national press secretary, told WFLA, a local NBC affiliate.
It is illegal to bring a gun to a polling place in Florida.
Pinellas County Elections Supervisor Julie Marcus said local officials will not tolerate voter intimidation at the polls.
“The sheriff and I take this very seriously,” Marcus told WFLA on Wednesday. “Voter intimidation, deterring voters from voting, impeding a voter’s ability to cast a ballot in this election is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any way shape, or form.”
Marcus added that she and Gualtieri — who are both Republicans — anticipated threats to “cybersecurity” as well as voters’ “physical security” in this year’s election.
“We had a plan in place and executed that plan,” Marcus told the news station.
Even if the two armed men weren’t directly employed by the Trump campaign, they were acting on his orders.
Trump has encouraged his supporters to independently monitor polling places — a federal crime.
During the Sept. 29 presidential debate, Trump instructed his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.”
“I am urging them to do it,” he added.
Intimidating voters is a federal crime. Federal law says that “no person … shall intimidate, threaten, coerce … any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of [that] person to vote or to vote as he may choose.”
Trump has a long history of riling up his followers to commit violence against his perceived enemies.
In April, Trump criticized Michigan Gov. Whitmer for issuing a stay-at-home order, tweeting, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” Heavily armed right-wing militia members took Trump’s advice, storming the Michigan state Capitol to protest the order.
In early October, the Federal Bureau of Investigations thwarted a plot by right-wing extremists to kidnap Whitmer, who is a Democrat.
After the foiled kidnapping attempt, Whitmer criticized Trump for his refusal to condemn white supremacy.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, responded by calling Whitmer a “complete phony” who should “go look in the mirror.”
Trump himself has continued to attack Whitmer after the kidnapping plot was revealed.
“Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job,” Trump tweeted hours after the news broke. “She locked down her state for everyone, except her husband’s boating activities. The Federal Government provided tremendous help to the Great People of Michigan.”
When he’s not directly stoking the flames of extremist violence, Trump likes to claim he doesn’t know anything about it. At a recent NBC News town hall, Trump claimed ignorance of QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory linked to his supporters.
“I know nothing about QAnon,” Trump told NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie, before adding that he supported their general mission. “They are very strongly against pedophilia and I agree with that,” he said.
During Trump’s time in office, a number of right-wing extremists have committed violent acts against Americans. In August, Kyle Rittenhouse — a 17-year-old Trump supporter — went to Kenosha, Wisconsin during a Black Lives Matter demonstration. He allegedly shot and killed two protesters, and injured a third protester.
Trump has cast doubt on Rittenhouse’s alleged crimes.
“That was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw, and he was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. And he fell. And then they very violently attacked him,” Trump told reporters.
Trump added that Rittenhouse “probably would’ve been killed,” implying that he acted in self-defense.
Between 2015 and 2019, Trump supporters committed at least 52 “threats or acts of violence,” according to an analysis conducted by The Guardian.
The most notable incidents include Cesar Sayoc, a Trump supporter who was arrested in 2018 for mailing 13 homemade bombs to Democratic officials, donors, and media offices. Trump has refused to disavow the “MAGA Bomber” for his alleged crimes. A judge sentenced Sayoc to 20 years in prison last year.
In 2019, federal agents arrested Christopher Paul Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant and a self-proclaimed white supremacist. Hasson was allegedly planning to carry out a terror attack against “a list of prominent Democratic congressional leaders, activists, political organizations, and MSNBC and CNN media personalities.”
All of Hasson’s targets were on Trump’s long list of personal enemies.
Rather than being troubled by his supporters’ violence, Trump appears to welcome it. At a recent rally in Michigan, attendees chanted “lock her up” about Whitmer.
“Lock them all up,” Trump replied.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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