Trump supporters rally at State Capitol

Donald Trump supporters upset with the results of the election rally at the State Capitol Saturday, Nov. 7. 

As Donald Trump became the first president to lose re-election since 1992, not everyone in Louisiana was ready to accept the outcome. 

A group of roughly 200 Trump supporters, many of them furious with the results, rallied at the State Capitol Saturday, lobbing opaque charges of vote fraud and insisting Trump would ultimately prevail.

The supporters, almost none of whom wore face masks, included Lenar Whitney, a former state lawmaker who serves as Louisiana’s representative to the Republican National Committee. Whitney said the rally wouldn’t do much to overturn the election results, instead pointing to litigation vowed by the Trump campaign. She said the gathering was an outlet for Trump supporters to express that they “are standing with our president.”

“We will win this race,” Whitney yelled into a megaphone, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “We will not go down without a fight.”

Whitney said she heard about the event from Facebook, as did many other attendees. Facebook earlier this week banned a group called "Stop the Steal" after it organized protests against the election and some members called for violence. Speakers at the Louisiana event occasionally interjected to insist they were not there to incite violence, and it wasn't clear if the rally here was tied to the same group. 

Trump’s loss became certain four days after the Nov. 3 election, when Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania became insurmountable, delivering the 77-year-old Democrat the electoral college majority. Virtually all major news outlets called the race Saturday, as Biden held onto leads in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania. 

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris became the first Black woman and person of South Asian Descent set to serve in the country’s second-highest office.

Fifty-eight percent of Louisiana voters who turned out in the election voted for Trump, while 40% chose Biden, a gain of 2 percentage points from Hillary Clinton’s shellacking in the state in 2016. Much like in the rest of the country, the early and mail vote tilted toward the Democrat – the vote was 53% for Trump and 46% for Biden, according to data compiled by pollster John Couvillon. Trump won the election day vote 63% to 35%.

Mail ballots in other key states like Pennsylvania similarly tilted toward Biden. As those results were tallied in the days following the election, Biden eventually overtook Trump in that state and the lead widened until media outlets called it Saturday morning. Unlike in Pennsylvania, Louisiana election administrators were given four extra days before the election to process mail ballots, allowing them to tally the votes on election night.

Trump has refused to concede and threatened more legal action on ballot counting. As the vote counts in several key states worsened for the president, he sought to sow doubt about the results. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who won re-election last year despite the president rallying against him multiple times, congratulated Biden and Harris in a statement Saturday and thanked the Trump administration for assistance it "provided Louisiana during our times of need." 

"I have always been committed to working with our President, regardless of party, in order to best serve the people of Louisiana," Edwards said. "This is more important than ever as we continue to recover from three devastating hurricanes and respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency."

With his loss, Trump becomes the first incumbent president since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992 to lose re-election.

His unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud were echoed loudly at the rally at Louisiana’s State Capitol, one of many such gatherings across the country, as Biden voters likewise flocked to celebrations in a host of cities. 

Groups of attendees at Louisiana's Capitol recited prayers as others waved signs that said “Don’t let the communists take what is yours,” and “stop the steal.” Some wrapped themselves in Trump flags.  

Karl Michels, a 47-year-old electrician who wore red Trump garb from head to toe, drove in from his home in Walker to attend the rally after getting a text from a friend. He cited several claims of voter fraud that he saw on Facebook and Newsmax, his two main sources of news, in declaring the election “corrupt.” He said he watches major news networks, but they "don't cover this." 

"I believe the media is the enemy of the American people,” Michels said. “There's an agenda. They don't like Trump, number one. They've never gotten along – maybe Fox – but all in all the media doesn't like Trump."

Fox joined the Associated Press and other major news organizations in calling the race for Biden Saturday.

“We're trying to get our voice heard. We feel the corruption runs deep,” Michels said. “So it's an uphill battle we're on. We're not just going to lay down and let it happen."

A young man passing through the gathering – one of the only people at the Capitol wearing a mask – laughed and said, “They’re just wasting their time.”

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com