Pro-Trump activists were gathering in state capitals on Saturday to rally in support of a baseless campaign called “Stop the Steal” that was kicked off Facebook this week for spreading misinformation and posts inciting violence.

The protests are among several efforts by President Trump and his supporters to delegitimize the election results by claiming, without evidence, that ballot counts favorable to President-elect Joe Biden are the result of a sprawling, multistate conspiracy to hijack the vote through fraud.

The group’s fliers call for “peaceful protests” in 50 state capitals and key cities, such as Philadelphia and Las Vegas, where ballots continue to be counted. The presence of powerful weapons at the rallies has left law enforcement officials edgy and election workers fearful that they could be targeted or attacked.

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Supporters of President Trump demonstrate outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol, Saturday in Harrisburg, Pa. Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The “Steal” calls have been amplified on social media by Donald Trump Jr. and promoted by conservative activists such as Amy Kremer, a former congressional candidate in Georgia and co-founder of the group Women for Trump. Earlier in the week, Kremer used a Facebook page with more than 100,000 followers called Women for America First to channel traffic to the “Stop the Steal” group, which quickly collected more than 360,000 members before it was shut down Thursday for violating the site’s rules.

Other right-wing activists close to former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon also are promoting the rallies. They include Jennifer Lawrence, a spokesperson for the “We Build the Wall” campaign that raised $25 million to build border barriers using private donations. Bannon and three others affiliated with that group were arrested in August for allegedly defrauding donors of more than $1 million.

The “Steal” campaign’s social media posts rely on familiar conservative tropes and paranoias. “Last chance Americans: Fight on your feet or die on your knees,” reads one post by a We Build the Wall activist, Dustin Stockton. “Are you in for the fight against the theft of our American election? Let’s do this.”

In a statement Thursday, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said the “Stop the Steal” group’s page was removed because it “was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group.”

On Friday, a “Stop the Steal” rally in Pittsburgh drew a small number of Trump supporters, as well as counterprotesters, and riot police were called in to separate the two sides. Another rally in the state’s capital, Harrisburg, was attended by a few dozen protesters.

On Saturday, social media posts showed a few dozen people gathering in Detroit. A much larger crowd gathered midday outside the statehouse in Lansing, Mich., where Republican lawmakers were meeting in a rare Saturday hearing to investigate GOP claims of election fraud.

Michigan, which gave Trump a razor-thin victory in 2016, fell decisively to Biden this year, 50.5% to 47.9%.


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