With the approaching US presidential elections, fears of an outbreak of violence, especially in light of President Donald Trump's sticking to his controversial political rhetoric, increase the situation, especially in light of the unprecedented political polarization, widespread anxiety and psychological tensions due to closures and measures related to the Coronavirus, In addition to the mobilization and counter-mobilization related to the "Black Lives Matter" protest movement.
And prompted clashes that took place last Sunday evening in New York City between supporters of and opponents of President Trump to redouble fears of widespread violence before, during and after the presidential elections scheduled for November 3.
Six days before voting ended, nearly 69.1 million Americans had voted by the end of Tuesday, reflecting a historic high in the vote.
Al-Jazeera Net sheds light, through a question and an answer, on fears of widespread violence, and its relationship to the most important elections in American history.
Are there realistic fears of violence associated with the elections?
Yes, there are fears of violence outside the headquarters of the electoral commissions due to the presence of armed individuals in order to monitor the voting process.
It is feared that some of these persons may engage in acts of intimidation of voters, or of dissuading citizens from engaging in their democratic right to cast their votes.
The laws of some states provide for the right to have election observers inside the polling stations, and it is stipulated not to carry firearms.
However, some extreme right-wing organizations have recruited volunteers, some of them from previous military backgrounds, to be inside the polling stations to monitor the voting process, and it is feared that some of them will try to disrupt the vote.
Were such concerns present in the previous elections?
No, it was not rejected by a presidential candidate who is seeking re-election, pledging to accept the results of the polls and admit defeat, as soon as the official final results are announced.
The expectation of an outbreak of violence was further complicated by the violence, riots and demonstrations that several US states witnessed following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white policeman at the end of May.
How does the average citizen view the potential for violence?
Mr. David Blair, a retired teacher from a number of Washington DC schools, spoke to Al Jazeera Net about the upcoming elections and the surrounding violence.
And Blair said, "During my follow-up of the general political affairs, which doubled after moving to work in Washington, DC, the federal state, I confirm that in the past 50 years I have not seen this high level of violence related to political issues."
He continued: There is violence due to police practices, there is violence and fears about the results of the upcoming elections, there is violence from militia groups believing in the supremacy of the white race, and there is violence from black demonstrators, which begins with peaceful demonstrations.
Can violence be expected after the elections?
Yes, there are great concerns stemming from President Donald Trump's refusal on several occasions to pledge to accept the results of the presidential elections, and a few days ago, Trump indicated his willingness to accept the election results if "they were only fair."
Many commentators have considered that Trump may pave the way to challenge the election results in the event of his expected loss, according to most opinion polls, and it is feared that Trump's position will fuel violence from extremist groups supporting him.
The results of the elections, which are unclear or disputed, could also inflame the instigators from left-wing or right-wing organizations alike, especially if each party considers that the other side threatens it greatly, which would push the two parties to mobilize their supporters, and this raises many concerns in A time when sales of arms and ammunition have reached record levels over the past few months.
What are the factors that fuel the occurrence of violence?
During an election rally in Nevada a few days ago, Trump repeated his skepticism about the voting process, telling his supporters that "the Democrats are trying to manipulate the results of these elections because this is the only way they will win." President Trump urged his supporters to be observers of the polling stations, "to prevent Theft, theft of the elections. "
On the other hand, some observers consider that the recent acts of violence in many American cities facilitate the outbreak of more violence later, hence the police departments intend to provide more officers on election day, especially in cities that witnessed unrest during the summer and confrontations with Police like Portland, Seattle, and New York.
What are the factors that prevent dragging into violence that exist in the American political system?
There are no specific factors that prevent the occurrence of violence except perhaps the deterrence represented by the law enforcement force, and the occurrence of violence facilitates the occurrence of violence 23% of Americans (76 million people) owning firearms varying from pistols to advanced automatic rifles.
For its part, the security services, companies of social media platforms and the media are preparing to deal with an exceptional situation expected in order to preserve the safety of voters and citizens;
However, her efforts may not be sufficient due to what President Trump says and tweets by early questioning of the election results.
How capable are US institutions to prevent violence?
Some state authorities say they will add more guards to protect the personal polling stations and postal ballot boxes, which has not happened in recent years.
Most states do not intend to deploy uniformed police at polling stations;
Because local traditions and laws keep policemen at a distance to avoid the impression of intimidating voters, it is permissible to call the police from polling station officials if things get out of hand.
Among the unresolved issues in Michigan, for example, are whether private citizens can be permitted to carry firearms around polling places, and the state's gun law is generally lenient;
But the state's Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, has issued a directive saying that no machine guns will be permitted in polling stations or other election-related offices this year;
But police chiefs questioned whether they had the legal basis to carry out such an order.
Is the US electoral system ready to deal with potential violence?
The experience of widespread recurrent violence has allowed state authorities to send firm messages to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
The election officials in the various states have arranged for task forces made up of state election administration officials, lawmen, judges, policemen and guards, with the aim of quickly dealing with any emergency situations.
Is there a role for the US army in the event of violence?
The US military refuses to be involved in securing the voting process, protecting electoral headquarters, or ensuring the integrity of the elections, and considers this a political act that does not fall within its constitutional prerogatives.
The National Guard in every state, like the Federal Army, does not want to participate in securing polling stations, and it is preferable for the police to do so.
Military officials want to maintain their apolitical stance and not get involved in partisan politics, saying that the presence of uniformed soldiers at the ballot box will lead to accusations that the army favors one candidate over another.
If violence breaks out and the local police are unable to deal with it, the governor can activate the use of the National Guard in the state, and the president can also invoke the law of rebellion and send federal military forces to maintain security and the safety of lives and property.