Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser recently pardoned by Trump, was speaking from the stage at the time.
“That’s pretty cool. Imagine just being able to jump in a helicopter and just go for a joy ride around Washington,” said Flynn, whose pardon wiped away his conviction for lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation.
At a pro-Trump demonstration in Washington a month ago, Trump thrilled supporters when he passed by in his motorcade en route to his Virginia golf club.
That demonstration, which drew at least 10,000 people to the capital, ended with scattered clashes between Trump's loyalists and local activists near Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House.
On Saturday, police took more steps to keep the two sides apart, closing a wide swath of downtown to traffic and completely restricting Black Lives Matter Plaza. One block away, about 150 anti-Trump protesters rallied, determined to protect the space. Small groups of Trump supporters who entered the area were verbally abused.
A group of about 50 men wearing the black and yellow of the far-right fascist group the Proud Boys circled the perimeter. Police kept them two blocks away from the anti-Trump rally.
The Proud Boys chanted vulgar slogans and at one point started singing “Jingle Bells.” They were apparently under orders not to engage with hecklers. One man who was talking back to people was yelled at and told “Don’t interact!”
Hundreds of Proud Boys, some wearing bulletproof vests, later marched near Freedom Plaza and gathered on the National Mall, within sight of the pro-Trump rally stage but keeping their distance.
The assembly on the mall, called the “Jericho March,” was described on its website as a “prayer rally” with speakers “praying for the walls of corruption and election fraud to fall down.”
The rally on Freedom Plaza also featured a series of speakers pushing debunked claims of election fraud to a receptive audience.
Sylvia Huff, a demonstrator who came from Gloucester, Virginia, to show her support for Trump, said the legal defeats hadn’t shaken her belief that he won the election.
“I believe the courts were on the take, too,” she said. The Supreme Court, where three of the nine justices were appointed by Trump, “was just afraid of a political backlash,” she said.
Among the speakers was Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, who urged demonstrators not to give up even after Friday’s Supreme Court decision. He said he wanted to send Trump a video and held up his phone, cueing the flag-waving crowd to chant “Stop the Steal.”
The organizers of this rally seemed intent on avoiding confrontations, telling demonstrators ahead of time to avoid certain hotels and marking off large chunks of downtown Washington as a “no-go zone.”