LAUDERHILL, Florida—A loose coalition of fringe right-wing personalities, local political activists and associates of longtime GOP trickster and Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone descended upon the Broward County Board of Elections Friday in order to protest the high-stakes recounting of the U.S. senate race between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson.
The ongoing ballot count, in a race where Scott claimed victory on an election night wheN he led by less than one half of one percentage point and that Nelson has yet to concede, has drawn a host of far-right internet personalities to Broward.
Former Infowars reporter Joe Biggs declared on Twitter that he was heading to Florida to stop “radical leftists.”
Right-wing activist Laura Loomer, a former James O’Keefe associate who has made her name by yelling at prominent Democrats in a stunt that she calls “Loomering”, said on Twitter that she too was headed to Broward and planned to meet with Stone.
“I’ll #Loomer the whole state of Florida if that’s what it takes,” Loomer tweeted.
Ali Alexander, a pro-Trump figure who runs a PAC bankrolled by the billionaire Mercer family, claimed that he would recruit both believers in the ludicrous QAnon conspiracy theory and homeless people to picket the Board of Elections.
The Republican protest outside the board of elections was organized by Juan Fiol, a former Trump campaign volunteer who has been photographed with Stone, according to the Miami New Times. The crowd included members of the far-right Proud Boys, an all-male collection of “Western Chauvinists” whose members have doubled as bodyguards for Stone in the past.
"Many of my friends are down there,” Stone told The Daily Beast Friday.
The protests drew parallels to the infamous Brooks Brother riots during the 2000 presidential vote recount, in which a group of young Republican operatives led by Stone, according to Stone, violently protested the manner in which ballots were being counted in the Miami-Dade County polling headquarters and spooked recount officials into pausing to the process, bringing George W. Bush one significant step closer to claiming the presidency.
Stone, for his part, insisted the two Florida recount protests he and has friends have participated in were demonstrably different.
“The so called Brooks Brothers riot was citizen action to prevent a portion of ballots that had already been re-counted three times being taken by democratic elections board of commissioners to an area with no observers from the republican party or the media in violation of Florida sunshine law,” he said in a text exchange Friday.
“The situation in Broward is in no way analogous therefor claims that I am seeking to foment Some kind of a similar citizen action is false.”
Certainly, Friday’s protests, where conspiracy theories about Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes’ supposed plot to rig the election ran rampant, had more of a freak-show feel than their precursor in 2000.
Poll worker turned protester, Janet Klomberg, 56, said she suspected fake ballots were snuck into the building overnight, referencing a video posted on Twitter by Florida congressional candidate Tim Canova, and later re-tweeted by Marco Rubio. “We have video footage of a rental truck in the dead of night with unmarked cars and trucks just dropping off ballots. With no police escort, nobody else in the car.”
The enraged crowd of over 100 gathered outside of the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Florida, carrying pro-Trump, pro-Scott, and pro-DeSantis campaign signage. A small group of Democrats cried; “Count every vote!”
“Let’s see if my dead grandparents voted!” a Republican shouted in response.
Michael Ray, an observer, wondered about the legitimacy of the uncounted votes; “And where are these votes coming from? There just showing up?” he said “There’s something wrong in the building and they need to come out and tell these people.”
Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s lead on Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has narrowed to roughly 15,000 votes in recent days as more ballots have been processed and counted, primarily in Broward. Elected Republicans, from President Trump, down to Nelson and Rubio, to members of the state’s congressional delegation, have suggested without evidence that a massive conspiracy is underfoot, designed to manufacture votes for Nelson until he emerges with the win.
The delay has centered on the slow tabulation of ballots in both Broward and Palm Beach County, with Republicans appearing to become alarmed as the remaining ballots have boosted Nelson’s total as they were counted, suggesting the race could be headed for an automatic recount.
Friday afternoon, a judge ordered the Broward Board of Elections to release the number of uncounted ballots and other figures that will likely soothe the protesters if they suggest Scott will hold on or inflame them if they suggest Nelson could force a recount.
“I’m very political. I’m very active online.” said protester George Snow, wearing a MAGA hat and carrying a Trump flag. “We’re not sponsored by George Soros, that’s for sure.”
Atena Sherry reported from the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office in Lauderhill, FL., and Will Sommer reported from Washington D.C. With additional reporting by Betsy Woodruff.