© Reuters. Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather for a "Stop the Steal" protest after the 2020 US presidential election for Democratic candidate Joe Biden was scheduled in Phoenix
By Mimi Dwyer and David Shepardson
PHOENIX / WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in downtown Phoenix on Saturday to contest the election of Joe Biden as U.S. President. They accused the media of plotting to steal the election and called the results a "coup".
The Trump campaign backed protests that challenged the current vote count and filed a lawsuit in Arizona on Saturday over rejected ballots, which Arizona's secretary of state said was "grabbing straws."
Trump's campaign claimed the southwestern state's most populous county falsely rejected the votes cast by some voters in the US President's race on election day. The lawsuit, filed in the Maricopa County Supreme Court, said election officials told some voters to push a button after a machine found it was "overrated."
Pro-Trump protesters have been gathering outside the Maricopa County Electoral Office and the Arizona State Capitol for days to support unsubstantiated claims that Democratic activists disrupted the election to illegally ship Arizona to Biden.
They sang: “Count the legal votes! We're watching you! ”Outside the building where election workers continue to count votes.
Tensions escalated on Saturday, and protesters at some point threatened to tear down the fence that cordoned off the electoral department and some media members of the group.
A number of far-right and militia groups such as the Proud Boys and Three Percenters were also in the crowd on Saturday, many armed with semi-automatic weapons.
At one point, protesters clashed with a small group of young counter-protesters waving Mexican and US flags on a corner across from the electoral branch. 19 year old Jacki Valencia was dancing with a Biden Harris sign when a man with a flag that read “Blue Lives Matter” shouted “USA!”. with her and others.
"I think it's ridiculous that you have gathered here," she said. "You have no evidence that there was fraud."
The Trump campaign lawsuit alleges that potentially "determining" votes were not counted in the race between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, who was declared the winner by major television networks on Saturday.
An Arizona official dismissed the lawsuit. "This is just a delaying tactic to delay the official acquisition," Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in a statement from her spokeswoman. "You're reaching for straws."
The Maricopa County Electoral Department declined to comment.
Biden leads Trump in Arizona with 0.44% or 18,600 votes.
The Trump lawsuit, which includes plaintiffs from the Arizona State Republican Party and the Republican National Committee, cited statements by some election observers and two voters who alleged the issue resulted in rejected votes.
An arrangement is sought that would require manual review of allegedly outvoted ballots that were personally cast. A judge will also be asked to hold the confirmation of the vote on hold until the review is complete.
On Saturday, a group of voters dropped a lawsuit making unsubstantiated claims that some votes cast for Trump were not counted in Maricopa County because voters were using Sharpie pens. The county introduced new tabulating devices last year, making Sharpie pens the best option on Election Day because they contain the fastest drying ink.
Hobbs' spokeswoman added that they are "in the process of examining the latest lawsuit, but it appears to be a repackaging of the" Sharpiegate "lawsuit. Hopefully this will settle the matter for good."