Facebook Bans 'Stop the Steal' Group as Trump Supporters Flock to Voting Centers 4 Days on From the Election
As Biden's lead widens, Trump supporters swarm polling centers and Facebook shuts down "Stop the Steal" group for allegedly encouraging violence.
Angry Trump supporters continued to gather outside voting centers across the country, spurred by the president's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud as Joe Biden's lead widened Friday.
Facebook banned an organization called "Stop the Steal" after company executives said some members of the pro-Trump group were "calling for violence" as poll workers struggled to count mailed ballots in the contentious presidential race.
On Thursday night, television networks pulled away from live broadcasting a Trump White House press conference in which the president falsely claimed the election was being stolen by Democratic fraud.
Biden, meanwhile, called for calm as furious vote counting showed him squeaking ahead in crucial states that will decide the election.
Some Republicans pushed back after Trump's speech, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who said the president had the right to request recounts, but "he is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen — doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions."
Election officials expressed concerns for their safety as Trump supporters converged on polling sites in Detroit, Las Vegas and Maricopa County, Arizona.
“I can tell you that my wife and my mother are very concerned for me,” said Joe Gloria, the registrar in Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas. He told The Associated Press his staff was bolstering security and tracking vehicles coming and going from the election offices.
In Philadelphia, police were investigating an alleged plot to attack the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes are being counted. On Thursday, the Philadelphia Police Department received a tip that people with guns were on their way to the Convention Center area in a silver Hummer. Two unidentified men were later arrested on arms charges, police said.
In Detroit, more than 200 protesters — many without masks and some armed with pistols — rallied Friday outside a downtown convention center where votes were still being tallied. Michigan, which has already been called for Biden by major news outlets, has been severely criticized by Trump's false assertions of corruption in mailed ballots.
"People are out of their f***ing minds if they think we’re going to sit back quietly and allow them to steal this election," conservative commentator Brandon Straka, who helped organize the event, told protesters, the Detroit Free Press reported. "The silent majority is unsilent. We are not going to take it. We’re going to stop the steal."
"Stop the steal" is a repeated chant by Trump protesters. The Facebook group of the same name was banned Thursday night, just 22 hours after its page was created. In that brief span, the group amassed more than 320,000 members, making it one of the fastest-growing pages in Facebook history.
The site was littered with unfounded claims that Biden was stealing the election.
Facebook spokesman Tom Reynolds told The New York Times the social network removed Stop the Steal as part of “exceptional measures” it was using to monitor election distortions.
“The group was organized around the delegitimization of the election process, and we saw worrying calls for violence from some members of the group,” he said.
Meanwhile, election officials in all of the contested states have vowed to keep counting, despite the president's legal threats to halt tabulations.
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