Armed protesters are gathering nightly outside offices where workers are counting the votes that will decide who wins the White House, reports the Associated Press. Some carry shotguns, others have handguns. Often, they carry black, military-style semiautomatic rifles. There have been no reports of anyone getting shot, and Arizona, Nevada and Michigan — where guns have been seen outside vote-tabulation centers — allow people to openly carry firearms in public. In a nation inured to weapons at rallies — most often carried by right-wing demonstrators, though 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.
“The more we see, the more people see it as a normal reaction — even though it’s not. There’s nothing normal about it,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a professor at American University who studies extremism. “The potential for violence becomes normalized.” Elections officials in states where Democrat Joe Biden was 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. “I’m here to protect a peaceful protest,” said Keith Owen, who carried a black, semiautomatic assault rifle and wore a handgun in a holster strapped to his leg. He described himself as a veteran who served in Afghanistan and now lives in Arizona. He was among 100 Trump supporters gathered for a third straight day Friday in front of the Phoenix elections center, where workers were counting ballots. In Philadelphia, two men with handguns were arrested Thursday near the center where vote-counting was going on. The men, ages 42 and 61, had driven up in a Hummer from Virginia and did not have permits to carry the weapons in Pennsylvania. The car had a window sticker for the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon.