WASHINGTON — When The Associated Press called the presidential election last Saturday morning, many Joe Biden supporters in the nation’s capital took to the streets to cheer, dance and sing after a nail-biting four days of vote counting.
Biden received 93% of all ballots cast in the District, a bit higher than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s 90% tally in 2016. The jubilation at the victory was palpable.
Cars rolled at a snail’s pace through the tightly packed streets. Drivers honked their horns, blasted music and waved American flags as onlookers fist-pumped and cheered the Biden win.
Black Lives Matter Plaza, a two-block long area near the White House, was jammed with thousands of celebrants, most of them wearing masks but all of them there to share the historic moment. Reporters formed a camera line to catch the crowds in front of the fence erected around the White House that had been plastered in with signs, photos and art.
In the center of the plaza, Maya Malika was protesting to make sure that Donald Trump leaves the White House, and she wants Americans to know that the fight isn’t over.
A protest organizer with Refuse Fascism, Malika chanted with a growing circle of onlookers, “Trump, Pence, out now! Trump, Pence, out now!”
She said the organization planned to set up everyday outside the White House, and won’t rest until the current administration has transferred power to President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris.
“[Trump’s] not going to leave peacefully. He told us that,” Malika said. “Let’s celebrate in the streets, come back day after day, and not stop until Trump and Pence are removed from the White House, and that’s going to be on us.”
She said that without a clear statement from Trump that he will willingly leave the White House, it will be up to Americans “in the millions to take to the streets and demand that he be out.”
The celebrations around downtown Washington lasted well into Saturday night, and picked up again Sunday. Now activists are planning their next moves.
A week after the election was called, Trump loyalists say they will hold several rallies in the capital Saturday, including the Million MAGA March, Stop the Steal and March for Trump. However, no permits had been issued as of Thursday afternoon, according to Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Alaina Gertz.
Refuse Fascism describes itself as “a movement of people coming from diverse perspectives, united in our recognition that the Trump/Pence Regime poses a catastrophic danger to humanity and the planet.” The group said it has the “responsibility” to use non-violent protests to drive them out of office and has called Trump’s actions since the election a “coup.”
Bethlehem Yirga, co-founder of The Palm Collective, a Black-led group working to end systemic racism, said her organization will join Refuse Fascism at Saturday’s protests. Yirga said members of her organization will display “Black joy and Black resistance.”
Yirga said it was important to provide people of color the opportunity to express happiness after the election as well as to protect that space by meeting Trump supporters and white nationalist groups head on.
“We’re keeping those who have been doing this work for decades, and even those that have just jumped into this work this summer, very protected,” Yirga said about plans to hold a rally in a time of rising COVID-19 cases, noting that protesters will be given PPEs and hand sanitizer.
Other organizations, including ShutDownDC, celebrated last weekend but are already moving on to their next actions.
Hope Neyer is a college student who works with ShutDownDC, which describes itself as “an organizing space” for groups to come together to organize “direct action.”
“What a lot of us were celebrating on Saturday night was the work that we came together to do, the local organizers, people doing electoral work, people getting out to vote, people defending polling locations, all sorts of really difficult and long term tasks,” she said.
Neyer said while Biden’s win was a victory for many, organizations like hers will continue their activism regardless of who is in the White House.
“There’s not any electoral powerhouse in this country that is going to do the work of community organizers, the work that we’re trying to do, they’re not going to ‘save us,’ ” she said. “That’s going to be something that we provide for ourselves.”
Neyer said after the weekend celebrations, it was time to get back to work.
“People in ShutDownDC [and its partner organizations], many of them have been organizing and working social movements, literally, like way longer than I’ve been alive,” she said. “They’re really used to winning or losing, celebrating the work that they did and moving on to the next thing, because the fight really isn’t ever over.”