HARRISBURG, Pa. — After news networks declared President Donald Trump the loser of the 2020 election on Saturday, about 2,000 of his supporters gathered here in the capital of Pennsylvania — a must-win state the president lost — for a heavily armed pity party.
The rally outside the state Capitol was in stark contrast to the joyous celebrations seen across the globe, including in the president’s hometown of New York City, where residents took over the streets to sing, dance and drink Champagne.
In Harrisburg, a ghoulish and cruel coalition of gun-toting MAGA extremists — who have enjoyed four years of being emboldened and condoned by the president ― gathered for hours to participate in the shared delusion that their guy hadn’t really lost the White House.
They arrived around noon, immediately attempting to disrupt a permitted protest organized by pro-democracy progressives who had just heard the news that their preferred candidate, Democrat Joe Biden, had won Pennsylvania and was therefore the new president-elect.
As the Biden supporters danced on the steps, the MAGA crowd yelled “Stop the steal!” — a common chant at right-wing rallies across the country this week, part of a coordinated campaign to falsely allege Biden was winning because of widespread voter fraud.
As I approached the dueling demonstrations, I was immediately accosted by Jonathan Lee Riches, a notorious troll. He wore a red MAGA hat and a T-shirt emblazoned with symbols of the Proud Boys, a violent neo-fascist street gang. He repeated the white nationalist slogan “It’s OK to be white” as he started to film me, demanding that I denounce “antifa.”
Police eventually told the MAGA crowd that it needed to move its demonstration to the other side of the building. The protesters obliged, waving their MAGA flags and Thin Blue Line flags along the way.
Once assembled there, Rep. Dan Mueser (R-Pa.), a Trump fan widely believed to be eyeing a run for governor, took hold of a megaphone and spoke to the crowd about how the results of the election were illegitimate.
He was surrounded by fascists. To his left, a man waved a flag for the anti-Semitic white nationalist movement known as America First. To his right, a man clad in black held a sign that read “Standing Back And Standing By For Our President” — a reference to when Trump, asked at a debate to condemn the Proud Boys, instead told them to “stand back and stand by.”
Far-right extremists have been a fixture of Trump rallies over the last four years, but it’s still hard to overstate how many were in Harrisburg on Saturday. The place was crawling with them.
A man in sunglasses, who had a collared shirt tucked into his khakis, stood silently watching the MAGA rally. He held a mug in his right hand with the logo of America First, the white nationalist group whose founder marched in the deadly 2017 “Unite The Right” fascist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
When I asked him about the mug, and to identify himself, he looked back at me silently.
Another man took hold of the megaphone before telling the crowd that it was time to “free Kyle” — a reference to the 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter charged with shooting and killing two people at an anti-racism protest in Wisconsin in August.
Armed militias were also in the city. They carried long guns and wore bulletproof vests. Some were members of a Pennsylvania chapter of the Three Percenters; others were followers of the militia-world influencer Daryl Stevens, aka “Angry Viking.”
Stevens did an interview with Fox News, and told various people in the crowd that the Supreme Court would eventually deliver the presidency back to Trump and that “antifa and Black Lives Matter are both terrorist organizations.”
The militiamen weren’t the only ones with guns. Multiple Trump supporters could be spotted carrying sidearms throughout the day.
Also in the crowd were believers in QAnon, a pro-Trump conspiracy movement based on online posts by an anonymous person known as “Q” who claims to be a senior government official with access to information about a globalist cabal of pedophiles waging war against the president.
Many people wore QAnon pins or hats or T-shirts, and the crowd often broke into chants of “Joe Biden is a pedophile!” — a baseless accusation popular among the QAnon faithful.
Despite many massive worldwide celebrations of Trump’s defeat Saturday, the demonstration in Harrisburg — along with similar pro-Trump rallies in Michigan and Minnesota and Oregon — offered sobering evidence that the fascist political movement the president has cultivated during his sole term in the White House is still hopelessly devoted to him, and that America will be dealing with the MAGAverse and all its delusions long after Biden is inaugurated in 74 days.
After the sun set in Harrisburg, and as people began to leave the Capitol building, a man on Third Street sat in an RV papered over with some of the MAGA merchandise he sells at Trump rallies across the country: posters reading “Fire The Lockdown Liberal” or featuring an illustration of Trump standing atop a tank holding a machine gun.
The man, who refused to identify himself, told me that without Trump, America would fall into the hands of globalists who would turn it into a “third-world country.”
When I asked him if he was worried about losing business if Biden took over in the White House, he gave a one-word answer: “Nope.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated Rep. Dan Meuser’s first name as Jim.
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