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Published on October 27, 2020 3:14 PM


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Agitating the situation is President Donald Trump?s preemptive accusations, without evidence, of widespread voter fraud and his resistance to a peaceful transition should he lose, as well as fresh images of rioting at left-wing protests.

It?s not alarmist; it?s fact: People are on edge, and law-enforcement agencies, and even social media companies, are at the ready.

A JL Partners-Independent poll found that 72% of voters say they?re concerned about post-election violence. A YouGov survey says 56% of voters expect such unrest after Nov. 3. And a group of scholars who wrote an op-ed for Politico earlier this month said their research shows that about one in three Americans who identify as Democrat or Republican believe violence could be justified to advance their party?s political goals ? a substantial increase over the last three years.

?We are increasingly anxious that this country is headed toward the worst post-election crisis in a century and a half,? they wrote.

Many law-enforcement agencies say they?ve been preparing for months for the possibility of violent demonstrations after the votes have been cast. They all note, however, that they have received no information about any specific threats.

The Department of Homeland Security says it will have agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection on standby.

"We have teams ready to go as needed," Ken Cuccinelli, DHS? acting deputy secretary, told CNN.

That strategy comes with its own concerns. This summer, officials in Portland, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., said the presence there of federal agents only escalated protests calling for racial justice.

Meanwhile, the New York Police Department said it has retrained its officers on crowd control, the Los Angeles Police Department has called off vacations for its cops, and the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., has spent $130,000 on ?less-lethal weapons? such as tear gas canisters and grenades, all in preparation of political violence.

"In law-enforcement circles, it is widely believed there will be civil unrest after the November election regardless of who wins," D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham told city officials of the purchase made in June.

And knowing their platforms could be used to help people with bad intentions coordinate, Facebook and Twitter are implementing stricter policies after the election.

Twitter says it will delete any tweets calling for violence. According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook is prepared to, in dire circumstances, change its rules regarding what kind of content it considers dangerous and warrants removal. The social media giant also might act to slow the spread of certain posts as they begin to go viral and alter its news feed algorithm to change what content users see.

"There's going to be a wave of hate speech,? Viana Ferguson, a former Facebook content moderator, said during a panel discussion Monday hosted the Real Facebook Oversight Board, an outside watchdog group. ?It's definitely going to be more violent. It's going to happen; it doesn't matter who wins. Facebook needs to be prepared for that."

Scholars and police agree the biggest concern is if Trump disputes the election results. The president, who has attacked mail-in voting, repeated a claim Monday that he has made for months: ?The only way we can lose, in my opinion, is massive fraud.? Trump, who is trailing in the polls nationally and in key states, also has said he expects disputes over who won to be resolved by the Supreme Court, which added his third appointed justice, Amy Coney Barrett, on Monday night.

Political violence could come in many forms ? clashes at street protests or property destruction are quick to come to mind. But in recent weeks, law enforcement agencies say they have disrupted alleged plots to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris ? a stark reminder of the extreme actions a small yet dangerous few might be considering.

Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and one of the authors of the Politico op-ed, said Trump has been doing the exact opposite of what an elected leader should be doing to prevent unrest.

At his campaign rallies, the president has continued to attack Whitmer for her pandemic-related shutdowns despite the foiled plot to kidnap the Michigan governor as retaliation for those very measures. And instead of condemning the ...