Christian Nationalism and Threats of Violence at Pro-Trump Rally on Eve of Electoral College Certification

"Stop the Steal" activist Alex Bruesewitz (Image from Right Side Broadcasting Network livestream of Jan. 5, 2021 rally.)

Supporters of President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election gathered for hours on Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, D.C. Tuesday, where speakers delivered Christian nationalist messages and veiled threats of violence if Congress failed to reject Biden electors on Wednesday.

“We should not accept this,” said former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has called on Trump to declare martial law rather than concede. “Everybody in this country knows” that Trump won the election, Flynn claimed.

Standing in front of a sign declaring “MARTIAL LAW NOW,” so-called Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander led the crowd in chants of “Victory or death!” Alexander told activists, “Our government is only our government if it is legitimate” and declared, “1776 is always an option.” He said Stop the Steal activists are starting “a rebellion against the Deep State.”

“What’s going to start a civil war is if we legitimize a rigged and stolen election,” said political consultant Alex Bruesewitz, a friend of Alexander’s and a Stop the Steal colleague. “We will never acknowledge Joe Biden as the president of the United States.”.

Rogan O’Handley, known on Instagram as DC Draino, returned to the American revolution theme, saying, “It may be 40 degrees out here, but it sure feels like 1776.” O’Handley said he had just come from a meeting at the White House, where he said people were optimistic that “something good” would happen on Wednesday. But he warned members of Congress that if they certify “fraud,” they will face an “uprising” of “pissed-off patriots.”

Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, who has aggressively promoted “stolen election” conspiracy theories, urged activists to stay angry and focused, saying, “We will take this back.”

George Papadopoulos, recipient of a pardon from Trump for his conviction for lying to FBI agents who questioned him regarding his Russian contacts, said that there are effectively two political parties now—patriots and traitors. He urged activists to run primary campaigns against Republicans in the “surrender caucus” who fail to back Trump’s attempt to stay in power.

Patrick Byrne, former CEO of Overstock and an ardent conspiracy theorist, said that he has “a lot of hope” because Trump has “far more power than people understand” to fight “foreign interference”—which sounded a lot like pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell’s claims that Trump can use “emergency powers” to postpone the inauguration.

Bikers for Trump founder Chris Cox warned that the U.S. is on the brink of socialism and the “brink of revolution,” and he repeatedly offered to “take the first bullet.” Cox declared, “Right now, there is a major assault on decency. They want your Bible, they want your babies, and they want your bullets.”

Many speakers spoke of Trump in religious terms, a reflection of claims by many religious-right leaders that Trump was anointed by God to lead the country. “We serve a mighty, powerful God,” said Christie Hutcherson of Women Fighting for America. “He wants everybody to know it’s by His might, by His hand, that Donald J. Trump will serve four more years.”

California pastor Ché Ahn, a leader of the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation, called this week the most important in U.S. history. “I believe that this week we’re going to throw Jezebel out and Jehu’s gonna rise up, and we’re gonna rule and reign through President Trump and under the lordship of Jesus Christ.” (In the Bible, Jehu overthrew the wicked queen Jezebel and slaughtered her family; Pentecostal Christians often refer to the “Jezebel spirit” as a demonic influence in the world.) Ahn said the election was “stolen” from Trump in “the most egregious fraud” in U.S. history. He predicted that Trump would be president for four more years and the U.S. would become a “red” nation “in perpetuity.”

Angela Stanton-King, a failed GOP congressional candidate and promoter of QAnon conspiracy theories, praised Trump for standing up to “demons” and told the crowd that Trump can still win because “God makes miraculous things happen.”

Right-wing pastors Greg Locke, Mark Burns, and Brian Gibson spoke at both the afternoon and evening portions of the rally, allowing hardy listeners to hear their shtick twice.

“This is a Christian nation,” declared Gibson, a Kentucky-based preacher, adding, “The church of the Lord Jesus Christ started America … We’re going to take our nation back!”

Burns, from South Carolina, said there’s a war between good and evil going on. “We are going to make it hell for Joe Biden,” he said, declaring that Biden will “never” be president.

God is raising up “an army of patriots,” Locke said. “We’re going to take this nation back, ladies and gentlemen, they can’t have it!”

Alex Jones, infamous for InfoWars’ conspiracy-theory-promoting extremism, called Biden “that slave of Satan” and said that God raises up “real men like President Trump.” Jones said, “We hold up President Trump before the creator of the universe and we say, ‘Thank you for trying to send us a deliverer’ … We hold him up in this hour of peril.” Jones declared, “We do not recognize the Communist Chinese agent Joe Biden or his controllers.”

Gina Loudon of the right-wing Real America’s Voice news site said, “We know who our friends are, we know who our enemies are, we know what the truth is, we know who our president is, and we know who our God is, and we know how willing we are, and how far we’re willing to go, to fight to keep it this way.”