Fears of riots and violent clashes loom over the US as the nation votes in the presidential election on Tuesday after a campaign that deepened the polarisation following months of agitation.
The uncertainty over the final election results which will likely not be known for several days has created scenarios where either side could start reacting to incomplete results.
A USAToday poll showed that three out of four Americans were concerned about election day violence and only one in four were confident that the transfer of power would be peaceful if the Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump.
Military.com reported that ten states were actively planning to deploy the National Guard for election-related missions and 15 have indicated they might.
Jeh Johnson, who was the Homeland Security secretary under former President Barack Obama has warned about the possibility of election unrest.
He told a CBS network program that he could “not rule out the possibility of tensions, some unrest on election day and in the immediate aftermath”, adding that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was “very, very focused on this issue”.
Several recent incidents — beyond the violence during the anti-racism protests — have raised concern,
Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden’s campaign bus was trailed by a convoy of President Donald Trump’s supporters flying their flags which sometimes surrounded the bus on the highways.
The FBI was looking into the incident in which Biden said they tried to run the bus off the road and it may have caused him to cancel some campaign stops.
Trump brushed it off in a tweet, asserting “these patriots did nothing wrong”.
Several Trump supporters on Sunday disrupted traffic on a bridge near the city as well as a highway in New Jersey
On October 25, a peaceful convoy of Jewish supporters of Trump was pelted with stones by Biden’s supporters as they drove through New York City.
Any of these incidents could spark clashes between supporters of either candidate.
Anti-government protesters known as Antifa (short for anti-fascist), who have taken advantage to the anti-police protests to take over parts of some cities in Washington and Oregon states, have faced off with extreme right-wing groups like the Proud Boys.
Biden has disputed the very existence of Antifa, which though not direct support of his is on the same side on some issues, while group members, including one who shot and killed a Trump supporter, assert the group’s existence.
A major concern for the US is widespread gun ownership, legal and illegal.
There has been a surge in gun purchases even before the election campaign started off in earnest, perhaps due to the fear and uncertainties spawned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to National Public Radio, FBI background checks for legally buying guns shot up 69 per cent in the first half of the year compared to 2019.
While attention has been focused on Trump supporters who oppose any control of gun ownership and form a staunch base and flaunt their guns, in 2017 a group of Republican members of Congress was attacked by a person who had worked for the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, who had run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Five persons, including Republican Whip Scalise and two police officers, were injured before the police killed the assailant.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)