"Just wait until next week's riots," was a common response to my coverage of the mass unrest in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the week of October 26. Another police shooting sparked riots and looting in the city of Brotherly Love and many feared it would once again spread to the rest of the nation after the presidential election.
Businesses and residential buildings in cities all over the country were boarding up in the chance President Trump would be declared the victor that night or in the following few days. The answer to why they were doing so was simple: They had gone through riots and looting at least once, if not multiple times, during the summer.
If COVID-19 was the main focus of the early spring, riots were the main theme for the summer. After the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, protests gave way to riots. While it was contained to the Twin Cities during the week, other cities across the United States experienced their own unrest that saw destruction during the weekend.
While things relatively calmed down in the week or so afterward, the air in the nation was still tense. It was that tension and continued hostility towards police that gave way to more rioting and general unrest whenever a police-involved shooting occurred or an investigation into a police-involved shooting was decided. It happened in Atlanta, Kenosha, Lousiville, Seattle, Wauwatosa, and the aforementioned Philadelphia.
Most importantly the rioting was overwhelming done by non-Trump supporters. As I have documented in many of these locations, the hatred towards Trump, even the United States as a whole, was palpable and unhidden. The election, if it went in Trump's favor, would have surely sparked more unrest, but in the days leading up to Election Day, some Democrats tried to pin the uneasiness on Trump.
I don’t remember Washington DC being boarded-up for an election prior to Trump.— Rex Chapman???? (@RexChapman) November 2, 2020
Let’s take our country back.
I’ve never seen so many people say how scared they are about post-election violence. I’ve never seen cities boarded up on Election Day in preparation for violence. This is what Trump has done to our country. We must defeat him, overwhelmingly.— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) November 3, 2020
Yes, of course Trump will try to declare victory on election night even if he has not won which is why most of downtown DC is boarded up right now.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) November 1, 2020
"When conservatives celebrated Trump's election 4 years ago, did they know that in 2020 we would board up shops, prepare for riots and the arrival of militias, game out ways he might steal the election, protest aggressive vote suppression? This is what he has done to America," journalist Anne Applebaum tweeted.
This is gaslighting at its finest. The country had just gone through mass destruction in its biggest cities and they were done at the hands of people who burned American flags and spewed anti-American rhetoric.
An American flag was just burned outside the Kenosha County Courthouse. One woman screams, “Death to America!” and kicks the fence. pic.twitter.com/vI8U6EOGBv— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) August 26, 2020
I did not see MAGA hats at these riots. If rioters knew who I worked for, the rubber bullet Minnesota State Police shot me with would have looked like child's play. They saw the country under the leadership of the next Adolf Hitler and concluded only violent kinetic action could help bring his "reign of terror" to an end, often implementing their own reign of terror on innocents.
From what I saw in the multiple cities I had traveled to during the summer, often the rioting would stem from people within a peaceful protest, who were against Trump and the police in general, once it became nighttime and the actual peaceful protesters went home. Indeed, protests were hijacked from radical members of the gathering and often put the peaceful protest in harm's way since police then responded to the rioters' attacks.
If there's any more proof the boarded-up businesses were there to protect themselves from people upset with a Joe Biden loss, just look at the lack of rioting since the race has been called in Biden's favor. Instead, there have been joyous celebrations and partying in the streets, (guess COVID-19 is no longer a problem.)
I was outside the White House on Election Day and I was more than prepared to cover riots if Trump was declared the winner. I was wearing a plate carrier that had rifle-rated plates, a ballistic helmet, and a gas mask. I'll say this: I did not bring that with me because I was concerned about Trump supporters rioting. Quite the opposite.