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As state capitols and cities across the country prepare for potential violence over the weekend in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol fueled by President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, planned rallies of supporters at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami and La Carreta restaurant on Bird Road proved peaceful.
And also small.
About a dozen people waved flags along Biscayne Boulevard at noon and repeated allegations of election tampering that have been rejected by a string of state and federal courts and also dismissed by all but the most fervent followers of the outgoing president, who was impeached this week for a historic second time after a Jan. 6 speech that critics say turned a protest into a mob assault on Congress by supporters demanding he stay in office.
Bob Kunst, 78, had been to more than a few pro-Trump rallies, big and small.
“This is my 208th event for Trump in the past five years,” said the longtime activist from Miami Beach.
The main reaction to this one were supportive honks and occasional obscenities from passersby on Biscayne Boulevard, including a group of women dancing in a passing open-air Rumba Miami party bus who offered obscene hand signals to the Trump supporters outside the Freedom Tower. Kunst checked them off as one of three displays of anti-Trump sentiment, easily eclipsed by his supporters driving by.
“We had 35 honks,” Kunst said. “That’s pretty good.”
Rose Roque, 80, sat in a lawn chair wearing one of the We The People T-shirts for sale nearby for $10.
“My story is: I love my president,” she said. “The election was a fraud, completely.”
The Rumba Miami party bus reacting to a pro-Trump rally downtown pic.twitter.com/ultH7VkeIA
— Doug Hanks (@doug_hanks) January 16, 2021
Devotion to Trump has become part of the weekend routine near one of Miami-Dade’s most popular Cuban restaurants, a tradition that continued as the sun set Saturday.
“It’s a show of support for the president,” Henry “Enrique” Tarrio Jr., the Miami-based leader of the national Proud Boys organization, said after greeting people at the regular weekend sidewalk Trump rally next to the La Carreta restaurant off Bird Road. “These guys are used to doing this every Saturday and Sunday.”
He called the gathering a sign of enthusiasm from a movement castigated in some circles. “The left has tried to demonize Trump supporters for four years. Starting with the ‘basket of deplorables’ by Hillary,” he said.
Tarrio was charged Jan. 4 for allegedly burning a church’s Black Lives Matter banner in Washington, D.C. Awaiting trial later in the year, Tarrio did not attend the Jan. 6 Trump rally in D.C. that led to a mob storming the Capitol.
“The violence and shit that happened was completely wrong,” he said. “At the same time, I’m not going to denounce everyone who was there, even those who were in the Capitol. Because some were just being peaceful.”
Nearby a flag flapped with “Q” in the center — the emblem for a convoluted conspiracy movement that revolves around the fiction of Trump battling elites involved with pedophilia. There was a pink Women for Trump and multiple Trump 2020 flags. A cardboard cutout of Trump at a presidential lectern greeted eastbound drivers on Bird Road, sparking a stream of supportive horns to the dozen people holding the flags and cheering.
The scene has become routine since the election, and participants said they expect the tradition to continue past Jan. 20.
Handing out Latinos for Trump business cards, Ozzy Perez said he’s not ready to concede that the Trump presidency is ending Jan. 20. “That’s your opinion,” he said. Perez said there’s no doubt in his mind Trump won a second term. “If we had proof he lost, I would have taken it. That’s not the case.”
President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated on Wednesday after an election that Trump’s own cybersecurity agency called the most secure in history. Trump fired the director of the agency after its statement contradicting his claims of a “rigged” election.
Trump supporters gathered for similar events in Palm Beach Saturday.
The relatively quiet rallies in South Florida contrast with the kind of potential violence state lawmakers are anticipating in Tallahassee, possibly on Sunday. The FBI has warned Florida law enforcement agencies about calls for “storming” government buildings in extreme right-wing online forums.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has deployed the Florida National Guard to assist state capitol and local police through Jan. 24. On Friday, the Justice Department announced that a Florida man had been arrested on charges he planned to violently confront pro-Trump protesters in Tallahassee.
The FBI continues to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., and make arrests. At the intersection of Le Jeune Road and Northwest 11th Street, an FBI billboard requests information about the attack. The FBI already has arrested dozens of people who invaded the Capitol, including a handful from Florida.