Widespread racist voter intimidation is underway across the country. Trump supporters have attacked and threatened voters in areas both rural and urban. Poll workers in multiple states illegally blocked people from voting because they were wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts. This racist intimidation could not happen without the sometimes tacit, sometimes open approval of the police, as well as the goading from Donald Trump himself.
Armed Trump supporters drove to an Albuquerque polling station on Oct. 17. The presiding judge reported she was afraid one of the right wingers would “shoot up” people voting. When police arrived, instead of arresting the armed racist, they gave him a citation for “acting disorderly.”
In Pinellas County, Florida, two armed men claiming to work for the Trump campaign stationed themselves at a St. Petersburg polling place. The sheriff of Pinellas County dismissed this act of aggression as a “non-event.”
In a predominantly African American neighborhood of Brooklyn, a white police officer broadcast “Trump 2020” over the loudspeaker on a police car, adding, “put it on Youtube. Put it on Facebook. Trump 2020.” Police have even stationed themselves outside of polling places, in blatant violation of election laws.
Militias and other fascist groups have also started organizing. An armed militia wearing combat garb joined a Trump rally outside of the only early voting station in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Sheriff Orvis Campell told local media that the militia’s presence was “legal.”
The fascist Proud Boys were part of a rightwing car caravan in Miami that attacked a pro-Biden car caravan put together by Cuban and Haitian organization. Trump supporters carrying American flags, Trump flags, and the pro-police Blue Lives Matter flag physically attacked Biden supporters with their cars. One 18-year-old Cuban woman described to the Washington Post how rightwingers encircled her small car with their large vehicles. “I couldn’t move at all — they had me blocked in. They completely encircled my car. The tires were huge. I couldn’t see outside or around me.” A rightwinger came to her window and demanded she get off the road. “I thought we were going to get physically harmed,” she said.
At this same event, one of the local leaders of the Proud Boys was seen wearing a shirt with the words “Stand back, stand by” — one of Trump’s commands to the group during the first presidential debate. Trump for his part has called on his supporters to join an “army for Trump” and become poll watchers.
Racist voter intimidation: a long tradition of U.S. “democracy”
These recent events are part of a history of racist voter intimidation that’s long been part of “democracy” in the U.S.
In Philadelphia in 2003, men with clipboards, in black sedans and wearing badges were dispatched to African American neighborhoods to ask potential voters for identification. In Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 2002, Republican poll watchers reportedly asked for identification from Black voters and photographed them before they could vote. In 2014, armed, unidentified men went door-to-door of elderly Black residents in Orlando, Florida claiming they were conducting an investigation into campaign workers.
The struggle of oppressed peoples in the United States to exercise their basic right to vote deserves support from the broadest layers of the progressive and working class movement. Efforts to curtail these rights have long been a project of the most fascistic elements of U.S. politics.