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caption: A Washington National Guard soldier looks across at another as they stand guard outside a previously closed Macy's department store as a protest begins nearby Monday, June 1, 2020, in Seattle, following protests over the weekend over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis.
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A Washington National Guard soldier looks across at another as they stand guard outside a previously closed Macy's department store as a protest begins nearby Monday, June 1, 2020, in Seattle, following protests over the weekend over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis.
Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Officials prepare for possible civil unrest in the wake of the election

We are just over a week away now from the presidential election, which many observers say is already is one of the most divisive contests in historical memory. People are already bracing for a lag in reported results, and partisans objecting if they don't like the outcome.

Mike Carter is a staff reporter for the Seattle Times. He co-reported a story about how federal, state, and local officials are preparing for potential civil unrest, given the impassioned atmosphere around this year's election.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

I don't know that [law enforcement officials] know what's going to happen. It's pretty unlikely from everything I've heard, and what I'm seeing, that the election will be decided on November 3 — even if there's a landslide — one way or the other.

As a result, there's going to be an interim period of time. I think the law enforcement is concerned that individuals — and or groups — may try to step into that vacuum and cause mischief, and cause trouble.

If you get out into the weeds on the internet, you can find people talking about almost anything. There are white supremacists-type groups, and groups that are pushing to the alt right, and the far right, who have been talking about the possibility of this being a civil war. I think some of that's been fed by stuff out on QAnon.

At the same time, the Antifa [movement], and the anarchists that are disrupting the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests are bound to be out. I think the possibility of a confrontation is a real concern.

They're not getting specific, but I know [federal, state, and local agencies] are preparing because they're acknowledging it. I talked to the U.S. Attorney Brian Moran. He acknowledged that they've been doing tabletop exercises.

On the state side, there are roughly 300 National Guardsmen that have rotated, I believe, out of Europe. They already have specific training in crowd control.

And at the local level, about all Seattle Police will tell me right now is they've canceled time off for officers around the election time. Again, the real issue, I don't think, is leading up to November 3. It's that period of time after November 3, when things are up in the air, and they will be up in the air. There's almost no question about it.

I think that people who were talking about civil war and about armed rebellion are pretty far out on the fringe. The problem is they all have guns, and you don't know what's going to happen with an individual or a small group of individuals. You just have to look back to Oklahoma City to see what happened then.

So, I think there's a lot of concern about that. And I don't want to invoke that sort of fear, but I think that law enforcement and the government have not seen anything quite like this before. You have a president who himself is talking about challenging, and whether or not he wants to leave office. It's unprecedented.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.