Armed Trump supporters face off with counter-protesters at Oregon rally

Far-right groups gathered at the Oregon State Capitol where speakers refused to recognise Joe Biden as president-elect

Despite Joe Biden being named US president-elect, a group of Donald Trump supporters vowed to back the departing president at a rally in Salem, Oregon, on Saturday.

Many carried guns , and with the far-right Proud Boys group in attendance, the event threatened to spill over into violence at several moments during the day.

Speakers took to the steps outside the Oregon State Capitol building, promising to back Mr Trump, and refusing to recognise Mr Biden as the winner of the tense and hotly contested election.

Republican Jo Rae Perkins, who lost an Oregon Senate seat to Democrat Jeff Merkley, spoke to the hundreds of supporters who had gathered in the light drizzle, urging them to stick by Mr Trump.

"Until those votes are certified, and until January 20 – and hopefully beyond – Donald Trump is still our president," she said. "And thank God, quite literally, that Amy Coney Barrett is now [Supreme Court] justice. This election will go to the Supreme Court. We know there is corruption in other states, and we have strong suspicions there is corruption here in Oregon, but we need to prove it."

After another speech, delivered by a local doctor who boasted that neither he nor his staff had ever worn a coronavirus mask and that Covid-19 was "no more", chants of "USA! USA!" rippled through the crowd.

The rally, which had been organised under the banner "StopTheSteal", started at noon, with the last protesters ordered to leave at about 6pm by police, about an hour after about 200 Black Lives Matter and left-wing marchers arrived at the scene.

The BLM protest had held back over fears of violence and because of the amount of weapons brought to the pro-Trump rally. But its leaders eventually led campaigners to the front of the State Capitol where the president's supporters were gathered.

Police formed a human wall to cordon off the Trump supporters from the left-wing protesters, in an attempt to prevent violence. One group surrounded a man in his pickup truck and let the air out of his tyres, while the remaining Trump supporters were eventually told to leave by police.

Two BLM protesters were arrested by police after a crowd dispersal order was issued, and were taken into a police van, although it is not clear if they were charged.

"This election happened and now I have to leave my house with a gun," said Percy, a Trump supporter who wore a Make America Great Again cap and had a handgun strapped to her thigh.

"I'm always concerned these events are going to turn violent. That's why I don't leave my house without my gun in case I have to use it. We don't let our men hit women; we bring out our women to hit women and that's exactly what I'm here to do now," she said after a scuffle with a female counter-protester who was then pepper-sprayed.

As tensions ran high, a Trump supporter punched a man who had turned up to counter-protest, after claiming the man had hit his girlfriend. Police separated the pair.

"I hope it stays calm and peaceful today," Don, who said he was not a member of the Proud Boys but there to show his support for Mr Trump, told The National. "But we came prepared, so I guess we did expect something to happen."
"I'm a patriotic American who wanted to see a fair election," the 50-year-old said.

"If we lose, fair and square, that's fine ... but there were just too many signs of corruption. It makes us very frustrated. We don't stand for it; we don't want that in our country. We're here to show we're unhappy. It's not just the result of the election – it's how it went. Ideally I'd like Trump to continue to be our president."