Groups face-off against each other outside TCF Center in Detroit over election count

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Detroit — Dozens of protesters and counter-demonstrators faced off against each other Thursday night outside the TCF Center, where absentee ballots had been counted following Tuesday's presidential election.

A few dozen demonstrators, protesting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and election results that swung to him in Michigan, were gathered outside of the convention center. Opposite them, with police officers and vehicles holding the line between the groups, dozens of counter-demonstrators chanted in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.One person held a sign with “You lost” and another wore a sweatshirt saying “Count every vote.”

One demonstrator, who declined to give a name, said their group was there to protest fascism. A protester was heard over a loud speaker making remarks about Biden's mental fitness, a common refrain from the Trump camp and supporters during the campaign. Others chanted that blue lives mattered, referring to police officers.

At one point, officers swarmed in to break up an apparent skirmish between the two sides. The protests began to break up about 9:18 p.m.; some protesters leaving the scene said they planned to be back Friday.

"I'm here to support our president as well as support Michigan in protecting the vote," protester Bobby Tenorio, 38, of Plymouth told The Detroit News.

He referred to the events a day earlier, when some Republican and Democrat poll challengers were barred from entering the room where Detroit ballots were being counted because both parties had surpassed the mandated maximum of 134 challengers with more than 200 each.

"I'm here to support those people who weren't allowed to go in, because there is a process," said Tenorio.

Tenorio said he would have to accept the outcome of the election, but added, without offering evidence, that he believed "massive voter fraud" occurred in the election and other elections over the last few decades. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States. 

"I believe the Obama election was fraud, I believe the Clinton and Bush elections were fraud," he said. He didn't believe the same of Trump's election, he said. 

Thursday's gathering followed an earlier one Thursday afternoon, where Biden and Trump supporters traded barbs as police officers kept the peace. It also followed protests outside the TCF Center on Wednesday.

Other protesters and poll watchers who have gathered outside the center since Wednesday also have, without evidence, made accusations of voting fraud and questioned how ballots were being tabulated.

Biden was declared the winner of Michigan's 16 electoral votes on Wednesday. 

Anthony Ali, 24, of Detroit, who said he was a bystander Thursday night to the TCF face-off, said he was making deliveries for DoorDash when he saw the protest taking place. Ali, who said he has participated in the Detroit Will Breathe movement against racism and police brutality, talked with a few of the protesters and said he found areas of agreement with them.

One of the protesters he talked to was wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat. Another protester wore a T-shirt in support of Trump, with the name of the conspiracy theory and disinformation website on it.

The protest "seems reflective of the general antagonism you're seeing in mainstream media, the talking points you're seeing," Ali said. "Once you engage with people, finding common ground is pretty easy."

At one point, someone from the protest called out to the crowd that the demonstration remain peaceful.

 "We are here in love, we are not here in hate," the protester said. "We care about all Americans."

On the other side of the street, chants of "Black lives matter" drowned him out.