The Road to Jan 6 Final

Donald Trump's Good Day: Cheered at West Point, Wowed by a Stop the Steal Protest

In this daily series, Newsweek explores the steps that led to the January 6 Capitol Riot.

On Saturday, December 12, Donald Trump supporters descended on Washington to protest the supposed stealing of the election.

Though the main venue was supposed to be the Supreme Court, the protesters split between Freedom Plaza, the National Mall, the Capitol and the Court, with some individuals marching from one place to another, while others protested in one spot."

Most news media organization put the crowd at 12,000-15,000, but the Secret Service reported that there were just 3,000 participants.

At the main rally in front of the Court, the usual line-up of speakers took the stage. Alex Jones shouted his usual incendiary combination of election claims and conspiracy theories. "Joe Biden is a globalist, and Joe Biden will be removed one way or another," he shouted.

Donald Trump 2020 election protest West Point
Donald Trump had a good day, cheered at West Point and wowed by a Stop the Steal protest. The president with Naval Academy cadets at the Army-Navy football game on December 12, 2020 in West Point, New York. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Retired general Michael Flynn spoke, declaring that Donald Trump would remain in office for a second term. "We're in a crucible moment in the history of the United States," he said. "The courts aren't going to decide who the next president of the United States is going to be. We the people decide.

"Destroy the GOP! Destroy the GOP!" he chanted.

Founder of Stop the Steal, Ali Alexander (born Ali Abdul-Razaq Akbar), said that those assembled should get ready to take action to protect the nation if, "God forbid," the electoral college certified Biden on December 14.

Katrina Pierson, the national spokesperson for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, also spoke. "We will utilize [the Courts] to the very end. And if that does not work, we will take our country back," she said.

Others appearing onstage included Sebastian Gorka, podcaster David Harris Jr., Nick Fuentes, and Mike Lindell.

But the main instigator to appear on stage was Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes. He called on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, and warned that not doing so would lead to a "much more bloody war."

Daniel Paul Gray, who would later be indicted for his role in the January 6 protests, was in the crowd. He posted several Facebook statuses during the day. "Militia finna be lit y'all!!!, and, Shits about to get lit y'all. I'm actually really excited at the possibility of the insurrection act being implemented," he wrote.

In another post, he seemed to make reference to upcoming protests to be held on January 6 (before Donald Trump's rally and speech had been announced). "Here is the move y'all. If they intend to certify a false election its gonna have to be to our faces," he wrote.

Gray then commented on another Facebook user's post with the following: "the only day that matters is the 20th [the day of the inauguration]. On the 6th a fucking shit ton of us are going to Washington to shut the entire city down. It's gonna be insane I literally can't wait. are you gonna be in DC on the 6th like trump asked us to be?"

The protest itself included many Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and QAnon adherents. Proud Boys members, many clad in the paramilitary garb of body armor and military clothing and wearing their signature yellow and black shirts, receiving rousing applause.

Later in the evening, after the rally dispersed, Proud Boys members prowled the streets, attacking what they thought were Antifa and Black Lives Matter supporters. Four people ended up being stabbed, including two Proud Boys and a Metropolitan Police Department officer. The protestors marched on DC churches and burned a Black Lives Matter banner displayed by the Asbury Methodist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in Washington. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio would later be accused by authorities of burning a Black Lives Matter banner. Posted video showed Proud Boys squirting on lighter fluid.

Alex Jones Donald Trump 2020 election protests
"Joe Biden is a globalist, and Joe Biden will be removed one way or another," Alex Jones shouted during a protest on December 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a member of the Proud Boys attacked a counter-protester while screaming "Fucking Jew." And according to other reports, the participants flashed white supremacist sign.

Reverend Ianther M. Mills, Asbury's pastor, described the acts as "reminiscent of cross burnings" and expressed sadness that local police had failed to intervene.

Speaking to local radio station WTOP, Nene Taylor, co-organizer with Black Lives Matter said, "I hold Mayor Bowser responsible for this."

"If Black people and people of color was to act like this, they would have done what they've been doing since [the] George Floyd protests started," she said. "Tear gassing us, beating us, and arresting us. That happened to none of the Proud Boys. The police was around and they done nothing to the white supremacists."

Tarrio later claimed that the attack was not motivated by race, but rather because "BLM is a Marxist movement," adding, "the burning of this banner wasn't about race, religion or political ideology. It was about a racist movement that has terrorized the citizens of this country." He was referring to the summer of protests.

There were 33 arrests overall, for assault on a police officer, simple assault, riotous acts, possession of a prohibited weapon (a taser), and crossing a police line.

During the day, Tarrio found time to visit the White House, a move that later would provoke many liberal conspiracy theorists to speculate that he met with President Trump. A White House spokesman said he was taking a public tour of the mansion's Christmas decorations.

The day's events seemed to signal a major break between the Proud Boys and law enforcement. According to an article about the Proud Boys published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point: "For years, the organization heavily promoted the 'Blue Lives Matter' narrative and movement, framing itself as pro-police and as standing side-by-side against their perceived shared adversary (antifa and Marxism) only to turn on police just before the January 6 rally in Washington, D.C., stating 'the police are starting to become a problem,' even though 'we've had their back for years.'"

President Trump boarded a Marine One helicopter from the south lawn of the White House on his way to the Army-Navy football game at West Point that day. He ordered the helicopter to overfly the crowd, tweeting at 3 p.m.: "Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn't know about this, but I'll be seeing them!"

Arriving at the football game, Trump and White House Chief of Staff Meadows were joined in the VIP box by Congressional leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, as well Pentagon leaders including acting Secretary Chris Miller, his deputy Kash Patel, and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the joint chiefs of staff chairman.

Trump, Milley, and other members of the brass walked to the center of Michie Stadium for the commander-in-chief to toss the coin to determine which team would start on offense. Everyone in the group was wearing a mask except Trump.

It was a foggy day on the Hudson River and the audience was somewhat reduced because of COVID. But the crowd, made up mostly of cadets and other Defense Department leaders, roared.

"USA! USA!," they chanted.