In a year marred by widespread protests, street violence and looting, cities across America are bracing for the potential of more civil unrest.
Described as “heartbreaking” by one pundit, the plywood boards and power tools have come back out ahead of the US election as businesses seek to protect their shopfronts in the event of more uncontrolled anger.
It’s becoming a familiar site in US cities.
In Washington DC, just blocks away from the White House, restaurants, hairdressers, clothing stores, and banks were covered in plywood on Sunday (local time) in anticipation of possible unrest.
Local residents and journalists in DC have taken to social media sharing videos on Twitter and TikTok showing block after block of stores boarded up, more than two days in advance of polls closing.
“Almost most of downtown DC is boarded up heavily. The city is prepared for civil unrest. For residents, get what you need for a week at least,” one woman urged, telling people to stock up on groceries.
Fannie Mae, the federal mortgage loan company, said it would close its offices in downtown DC all week “out of an abundance of caution” concerning any election-related violence, Fox News reported.
CNN anchor and journalist Wolf Blitzer was among those to share footage of the boarded up central business district in downtown DC.
“I never thought I would see so many buildings here in the nation’s capital boarded-up on the eve of a presidential election in anticipation of possible unrest,” he lamented.
“And it’s not just in DC. It’s happening in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere around the country. So sad!”
A former top homeland security adviser and aide to Vice President Mike Pence, Olivia Troye, labelled the scene “heartbreaking”.
“All brought to you by a President who claims he stands for #LawAndOrder This is what #TrumpsAmerica looks like. We are better than this,” she tweeted.
A ton of the landlords in downtown DC (plus the Walgreens by my house) are anticipating post-election violence and preemptively boarded up their windows this weekend. It’s awfully ominous.
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) November 2, 2020
— Jorge Ventura Media (@VenturaReport) October 30, 2020
This is happening everywhere in DC. Media won’t cover it. https://t.co/Co6oS6lAil
— Thomas Peters 🤦♂️ (@AmericanPapist) October 30, 2020
6 blocks from my Washington DC home businesses are boarded up in anticipation of riots/looting election night...what has happened to us that we can’t have a peaceful election even w/ deep disagreement? And to think the world is watching us...
— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) November 2, 2020
A lot of boarding up in Washington, DC ahead of the election pic.twitter.com/tWyrq8EnQu
— Larry Madowo (@LarryMadowo) November 1, 2020
‘The White House on lockdown’
According to reports by NBC, the White House will also be taking precautions after already erecting a fence around the outer grounds of the White House following the George Floyd protests earlier this year.
The network’s White House correspondent, Geoff Bennett, said further fencing will be built to secure the White House complex the day before the election, citing an unnamed police source.
The White House on lockdown: A federal law enforcement source tells NBC that beginning tomorrow, crews will build a “non-scalable” fence to secure the WH complex, Ellipse and Lafayette Square.
250 National Guardsmen have been put on standby, reporting to Metro Police officials.
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) November 2, 2020
Washington DC isn’t alone in its concern, with businesses in New York, Boston and Los Angeles also taking precautions ahead of an expected election result later this week. Although given the large volume of mail ballots (which take longer to process), a close election could take days or even weeks to resolve, likely increasing tensions among a divided public.
In New York, photos show up-market stores in Manhattan completely boarded up as shoppers and workers pass by.
‘A terrible thing’: Trump casts doubt on election night
President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the integrity of the US election again, saying a vote count that stretched past election day would be a "terrible thing", suggesting his lawyers might get involved.
Americans have rushed to vote early, already casting nearly 60 million mail-in ballots that could take days or weeks to be counted in some states – meaning a winner might not be declared in the hours after polls close on Wednesday AEDT.
A record-setting 92.2 million early votes have been cast either in-person or by mail, according to the US Elections Project, representing about 40 per cent of eligible voters.
“I don't think it's fair that we have to wait for a long period of time after the election,” he told reporters before a rally in North Carolina on Sunday.
“We're going in the night of - as soon as the election is over - we're going in with our lawyers,” he said.
In the key battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, state laws mean mail ballots can’t be processed until the day of, or the day before election day, meaning the count will go on for days.
Given that polls show Democrats have been more likely to vote by mail, some analysts are predicting a “red mirage” where it looks like a big win for Trump on the night only for mail ballots to swing it in Joe Biden’s favour.
Mr Trump denied a report that he has told confidants he will declare victory on election night if it looks as if he is ahead, even if the electoral college outcome is unclear. But he said it was a "terrible thing" that ballots would be counted after election day, despite that being the norm.
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