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Once again, Trump supporters swarm TCF Center in protest

a crowd of trump supporters stand outside of the TCF center in Detroit
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

The counting of Detroit’s absentee ballots has been finished since Wednesday. But the TCF Center—where those votes were counted—was the site of angry protests for a third straight day on Friday.

Republican-affiliated protesters began gathering atTCF on Wednesday,demanding to be allowed into the city’s absentee counting board, and making unsubstantiated accusations of fraud even while votes were still being counted. For some reason, Detroit has been a focus point for these widespread claims, even though there were no verified reports of any election irregularities there.

Similarly, Friday’s protesters were outside TCF to support President Donald Trump, and his totally unverified claims that Vice President Joe Biden is somehow stealing the election through massive voter fraud.

“Joe Biden is going to the Detroit graveyard today to thank all of his supporters!” One man shouted into a bullhorn, suggesting (falsely) that large numbers of dead people somehow voted for Biden.

The protesters made lots of unsubstantiated claims like that one. Among them: that votes should stop being counted on Election Day; that mail-in ballots are inherently fraudulent; and that a late shift in votes away from Trump and toward Biden somehow signified the election is being "stolen."

Protester Peggy Darrah said she had heard accounts of “suspicious votes” at TCF, and questioned why some Republican election challengers weren’t allowed into the counting board room.

“I think that closing us out, covering windows…it’s too suspicious. It’s just too suspicious,” said Darrah.

But Detroit officials say that was for crowd capacity reasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and election officials and multiple observers say Republican observers were present in the room at all times. Two Michigan courts have already rejected Republican lawsuitsbased on that premise, with one judge calling vague, anecdotal evidence of alleged fraud “hearsay.”

Darrah also repeated President Trump’s claims that some votes are illegal, without explaining why or how that’s allegedly the case. “Biden says, let’s count every vote. I say, let’s count every legal vote,” she said.

Gary Smith came down from Caseville in St. Clair County to protest. Standing to the side of Washington Boulevard, waving a Trump 2020 flag and with a Confederate flag emblazoned on his shirt, Smith echoed a frequent false claim from President Trump that voting by mail is rife with fraud.

“No accountability who got it, who filled it out, sent it back. There’s no accountability,” Smith said. “We don’t know, there’s no way of saying these are real voters who sent the ballots back.”

Those assertions are not true. In fact, mail-in voting has been used for years, and there’s no evidence to suggest that voter fraud is more than a miniscule problem - in fact, as Reuters reports, it's vanishingly rare.

Smith also suggested, without evidence, that fraud had occurred in many states besides Michigan, and that it was engineered by the Democratic National Committee.

Kellie Denz found the shift in votes to favor Biden over time suspicious. Both mail-in 

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

votes and votes from cities are generally the last to be counted or reported, and both tend to favor Democrats. But to Denz, it’s a red flag.

“And then we wake up and we find all of these votes in the middle of the night?” Denz said. “If Biden won, Biden won. If Trump won, Trump won. But it sure looks like they’re meddling in the election.”

“I don’t want to live in a socialist country,” Denz added. “I don’t want my kids to live in a socialist country.”

While all of these claims range from unsubstantiated to flatly false, that hasn’t stopped Republican leaders from picking up on them. GOP leaders in the Michigan House and Senate are taking the unusual step of holding hearings this weekend, and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is calling for an investigation (Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office issued a point-by-point rebuttal of McDaniel’s claims).

Notably, very few protesters or Republican officials have homed in on the usual remedy when it comes to suspicions of election irregularities: a recount.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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