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        Election-related rallies kick off in South Florida as cops urge peace

        As demonstrators march and shout this weekend across South Florida, police officers are welcoming the election-related activism as long as it’s kept civil and doesn’t devolve into violence.

        The chants and cheers from demonstrators have been heard from Miami to West Palm Beach, and many more gatherings are planned across the region in the coming days. They’re being staged by activists on both sides of the political divide, either in support of Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

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        “Members in the community have the right to peaceful assembly if in a lawful manner and those peaceful assemblies are welcome in the City of Fort Lauderdale,” said Interim Police Chief Karen Dietrich. “Anyone joining those peaceful assemblies with the intent to incite violence of inflict harm on others will be handled according to the law.”

        The Fort Lauderdale police are among the various South Florida agencies that already solidified plans meant to keep the peace. The agency canceled vacations for its officers this week in anticipation of needing more men and women on the streets for any potential post-election clashes.

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        Several local demonstrations were organized by Protect the Results, a left-leaning group, to show solidarity behind counting all the ballots and protecting democracy. A “Protect the Results” group will gather at Bubier Park in Fort Lauderdale at 3 p.m. In Miami, an event takes place at 12:30 p.m. in Bayfront Park and then again at 3 p.m. at the Torch of Friendship Park. An event scheduled for Palm Beach County on Saturday was canceled.

        The group’s website stressed the events would be peaceful.

        About 100 pro-Trump people gathered in Miami’s Westchester neighborhood on Thursday without any issues. The event was in part a celebration of Trump’s victory in Florida and also meant to show solidarity that they want the voting process to be free of fraud.

        Among those gathered were members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group whom Trump during a televised town hall before the election told to “Stand back and stand by” when he was asked if he would denounce white supremacy.

        As they gathered, Trump addressed the nation from the White House and again reiterated without any facts that there was widespread fraud and a media conspiracy to help the Democrats steal the election from him. The crowd in Miami were quiet as the address was amplified from a truck’s radio.

        Near the end of the event Thursday, Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of Proud Boys, told the crowd to stay in the streets every day until the election results.

        Across the country, there have been a handful of clashes as a divided nation waits for the result of U.S. presidency. In Portland, Ore. a full-on riot was declared Thursday evening.

        Among the states at highest risk for clashes were Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — key states whose ballot counts were underway after the election, Bloomberg News reported, citing information from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a data-collection initiative that tracks political violence, among other things.

        Oregon already has been roiled by a spate of nightly demonstrations and protests, mainly against racism and police brutality. The Armed Conflict group couldn’t be reached for comment Friday to discuss any issues faced in Florida.

        Staff writer Andrew Boryga contributed to this report.

        Eileen Kelley can be reached at 772-925-9193 or ekelley@sunsentinel.com. Follow on Twitter @reporterkell.

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