At Trump's White House and Across U.S., Fears of Election Night Violence See Protective Fences, Boards Erected

The White House is reportedly planning to install a new "non-scalable" fence around the building's perimeter as President Donald Trump's administration prepares for possible unrest related to Tuesday's election.

The barrier will be similar to the one erected during this summer's protests against police brutality and systemic racial inequality, which saw demonstrations—and police brutality against peaceful marchers—within sight of the White House.

NBC News first reported the plan to install the new fencing. CNN later confirmed the report citing an unnamed source "with knowledge of the matter." Newsweek has contacted the White House to request comment.

CNN reported that the planned fence will close off the Ellipse and Lafayette Square, stretching down 15th Street to Constitution Avenue and then across to 17th Street. It will then run up to H Street and across Lafayette, before coming down 15th Street.

Much of the area around the White House has been blocked off in recent months, amid racial justice protests and construction work. Lafayette Park, for example, has been largely fenced off since police attacked protesters there in July, CNN said.

Trump was criticized for a photo opportunity outside a damaged church soon after police cleared the park of peaceful marchers using batons and tear gas.

Businesses across the country are also being boarded up as Americans prepare for the climax of the most vicious presidential campaign in modern history. The coronavirus pandemic and historically high numbers of mail-in ballots means there may not be a decisive result come November 4, opening the door for agitators to challenge the legitimacy of the vote.

The president plans to claim victory even before the final results are clear, Axios reported, and has repeatedly refused to commit to honoring the election result if he loses to former Vice President Joe Biden.

A Trump win—or a Trump challenge to a Biden win—could prompt major protests in American cities, where voters traditionally back the Democrats. Unrest could also be a magnet for right-wing agitators and anti-fascist protesters that travel around the country for protests.

Earlier this month, Patrick Burke—the executive director of the Washington, D.C., Police Foundation—told CNN that police were preparing for all types of unrest.

"If there's no winner, you will see significant deployments of officers at all levels across the capital," Burke said. "Officers will get cancellations of days off, extensions of shifts and full deployments of officers across the city."

Elsewhere, major retailers are pre-emptively closing stores in fear of unrest, property damage and looting, which has been seen on the sidelines of largely peaceful protests throughout the summer.

Nordstrom announced plans to board up around 350 of its stores and hire extra security for election day, the New York Times reported. The Tiffany & Company jeweler said it would board up the windows of "select stores in key anticipation of potential election-related activity."

Saks Fifth Avenue is "implementing additional security measures at certain locations in the event of civil unrest due to the current election," while in Los Angeles' Beverly Hills police are taking a "proactive approach" and closing Rodeo Drive, the famous strip of luxury stores, the Times said.

A YouGov survey published last month found more than half of Americans—55 percent of respondents—expect an increase in violence after election day. Thirty three percent of voters were unsure, while only 11 percent did not expect an increase in violence.

The president has been accused of inflaming tensions in the lead up to the vote, refusing to denounce violent white supremacist groups and encouraging his supporters to intimidate opponents at polling stations and on the campaign trail.

Trump even celebrated a caravan of supporters who surrounded a Biden campaign bus in Texas last week, ramming a support car and forcing the bus off the road. The Biden staffers aboard called 911 to request help, and were escorted to their next stop by police.

White House, fence, barrier, unrest, protests, election
This file photo shows fencing installed at Lafayette Park on June 24, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Fences are set to be installed around the White House on election night amid fears of violence. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Getty