Cities and states across the country are preparing for unrest following the November 3 elections, with the commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD) telling all uniformed officers to be prepared to hit the streets for protests before and after the election, CNN reported today (October 13). The state of California also sent a heads-up to its local election officials last week to be on guard.
According to an internal memo obtained by CNN, NYPD officers have been training for election-related unrest in recent months. It also said all officers — those in uniforms and ranking officers — could start setting up on streets and command posts on October 25. What they’re looking for, CNN reported, are gun-toting extremists who want to suppress voting.
"Accordingly, we should anticipate and prepare for protests growing in size, frequency, and intensity leading up to the election and likely into the year 2021," noted the memo, according to CNN. NYPD Deputy Chief Samuel Wright told CNN that, "The whole idea behind the training is to separate those people that are there to cause chaos, as opposed to the real reason that the protests began in the first place.”
In California last week, the secretary of state’s office sent a memo to county election officials reiterating that it’s illegal to carry a firearm near or at a voting location or to intimidate anyone who is casting a ballot, the Associated Press reported on October 8.
These alarms started ringing after the September 29 presidential debate when President Donald Trump told white extremist group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” instead of denouncing white supremacy, and to go to the polls to “watch very carefully.” It’s not just New York or California either. CNN reported that city officials in Boston, Cincinnati and Seattle are worried, along with some banks and Fortune 500 companies.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley told CNN that the tensions keep him up at night. "I’m also worried that there will be a bogus attempt to prevent the counting of all the ballots, and that also could lead to a variety of unrest in a variety of ways," Cranley said.
Trump also told "his supporters" to "go into the polls and watch very carefully."
rnBut he wasn’t talking about poll watching. He was talking about voter intimidation.
rnFYI — voter intimidation is illegal in Nevada. Believe me when I say it: You do it, and you will be prosecuted.
rn— Aaron D. Ford (@AaronDFordNV) September 30, 2020
In a separate post, Ford tweeted a video on how to distinguish poll watching from voter intimidation:
rn— NV Attorney General (@NevadaAG) October 12, 2020
Just in case voting harassment or violence really gets out of hand, a group of lawyers formed The Orders Project, a nonpartisan pro-bono firm, to advise military and National Guard members on whether they’re being given unlawful orders targeting protesters if they’re sent to maintain peace during the elections, the Washington Post reported. “If the Nation faces civil unrest requiring the deployment of military personnel or federalized National Guard personnel, questions may arise as to the legality of orders they receive,” notes The Orders Project’s website. “Given the authorized maximum punishments for disobeying orders, this is a serious matter."