Gun carrying protesters continue to gather outside US vote counting centres

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Armed protesters continue to gather outside offices where workers are counting votes that will decide who wins the US presidential election.

The protesters with weapons including shotguns, handguns and military-style semiautomatic rifles, are a small minority of the demonstrators. There have been no reports of anyone getting shot, and the laws in Arizona, Nevada and Michigan – where guns have been seen outside vote-tabulation centres in recent days – allow people to openly carry firearms in public.

But in a nation increasingly inured to weapons at rallies – most often carried by right-wing demonstrators, though also sometimes by left-wing protesters – experts warn that the guns create a dangerous situation that could be seen as intimidation or tip easily into violence.

Armed Trump supporters pose for a photo outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office where votes are being counted in Phoenix, Arizona
Armed Trump supporters pose for a photo outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office where votes are being counted in Phoenix, Arizona (AP/Dario Lopez-MIlls)

Supporters of President Donald Trump protest outside the Maricopa County Recorder's Office in Phoenix
Supporters of President Donald Trump, some carrying guns, in Phoenix (AP/Ross D. Franklin)

The armed protesters have shown up at the vote-counting centres in response to groundless accusations from President Donald Trump that the Democrats are trying to steal the election. No serious irregularities have been reported.

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Elections officials in several states where Democrat Joe Biden is ahead said the anger outside their doors made them fear for the safety of their employees.

Those carrying weapons insist they are keeping the peace.

Around 100 of Mr Trump’s supporters gathered for a third straight day on Friday in front of the Phoenix elections centre in Arizona, where hundreds of workers are processing and counting ballots.

Trump supporters argue with a man who came to protest against them in Phoenix
Trump supporters argue with a man who came to protest against them in Phoenix (AP/Dario Lopez-MIlls)

“Arrest the poll workers!” the crowd chanted, demanding four more years in office for Mr Trump. Sheriff’s deputies kept protesters in a “free speech” zone away from the entrance to the building.

In Detroit, dozens of Mr Trump’s supporters returned to the streets on Friday outside the city’s convention centre, where election workers counted ballots.

“Stop the steal!” the protesters chanted. Some carried signs that read, “Make Elections Fair Again” and “We Love Trump”. Police cordoned off streets leading to the building and maintained a close watch on the protest.

Supporters of Donald Trump gather in Detroit, Michigan
Supporters of Donald Trump gather in Detroit, Michigan (Nicole Hester/Ann Arbor News via AP)

The tattoo saying 'We The People' decorates the arm of a Trump supporter as she rests her hand on her gun during a protest in Detroit
The tattoo saying ‘We The People’ decorates the arm of a Trump supporter as she rests her hand on her gun during a protest in Detroit (AP/David Goldman)

The county treasurer in Detroit, Eric Sabree, said he had closed his office because of threats. In a statement, Mr Sabree said the decision was made “in the interest of the safety of taxpayers and our staff” and because of “credible information” from the sheriff’s office.

In October, Michigan’s secretary of state tried to ban the open carrying of weapons near polling stations and vote-tallying centres, but the order is tied up in court.

Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel said in a statement when the order was announced: “Michigan voters have the right to vote in person on Election Day free from threat and intimidation. An armed presence at the polls is inconsistent with our notion of a free democracy.”

Protesters outside the Clark County Election Department in Nevada
Protesters outside the Clark County Election Department in Nevada (AP Photo/John Locher)

About 100 people gathered on Friday at a vote-tabulation centre in Las Vegas for a pro-Trump demonstration, with at least two men in fatigues seen carrying rifles that hung from shoulder straps. At least 20 uniformed officers standing nearby watched the demonstrators.

In Philadelphia, two men with handguns were arrested on Thursday night near the convention centre where the vote counting was going on.

The men, aged 42 and 61, had driven up from Virginia and did not have permits to carry the weapons in Pennsylvania, police said. A military-style rifle and ammunition were found inside their vehicle, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said. The car had a window sticker for the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon.

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