Luke Aubourg, Agence France-Presse, October 31, 2020
Hammers are pounding and saws are buzzing in Washington as crews board up stores amid fears that the pivotal US presidential election next week could degenerate into unrest.
All around downtown Washington, near the stately White House and elsewhere, many merchants and office building managers are working feverishly to protect their property in the tense final days before Tuesday’s showdown between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
Shellshocked by the pandemic, economic turmoil and racial tension, the nation is on edge to a degree perhaps not seen in living memory at election time.
Indeed, violence broke out in downtown Washington as it did in other US cities after the Floyd killing in May triggered widespread unrest and a national reckoning on how police treat people of color and the broader issue of economic and social inequality in America.
In some cases, the boards put up then only came down a few weeks ago.
Getting ready for the election, Washington police have announced plans to shut down streets within a large perimeter around the White House on Tuesday and Wednesday.
They have also ordered $130,000 worth of tear gas and stun grenades, said local radio station WUSA9.
Other news outlets have reported that George Washington University in downtown Washington has advised its students to stock up on food and medicine as if they were hunkering down for a hurricane.
Some groups are already planning rallies, such as Shutdown DC, which has sought a permit for 10,000 people to gather in the new Black Lives Matter Plaza on a street leading to the White House on election night.
But the group has also trained its members in how to interact with police if things get ugly and with counter-protesters.
“We’ve been training for a long time. We talk about quick decision-making and how to keep ourselves and our friends safe in the streets,” said Hope Neyer, a spokeswoman for Shutdown DC.
“We’re unfortunately prepared to take risks, because we recognize the importance of this moment,” she said.
One in three Americans is worried about the prospect of election-related violence, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released this week.