Elation and Anger: Catharsis in the streets as election ends

National News

As soon as the news buzzed on their phones, Americans gathered spontaneously on street corners and front lawns — honking their horns, banging pots and pans, starting impromptu dance parties — as a vitriolic election and exhausting four-day wait for results came to an end Saturday morning. And for all that joy, there was equal parts anger and mistrust on the other side.

Across the United States, the dramatic conclusion of the 2020 election was cathartic. Just after The Associated Press and other news organizations declared that former Vice President Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump, fireworks erupted in Atlanta. In Maine, a band playing at a farmers’ market broke into the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

People waved Biden signs from car windows and balconies, and a massive pro-Biden crowd gathered in the streets outside the White House. In New York City, some stopped their cars wherever they happened to be, got out and danced in the streets. Car horns and bells echoed through neighborhoods across Puerto Rico. In Louisville, Kentucky, Biden supporters gathered on their lawns to toast with champagne. In Kansas City, they swayed in a park to the song “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang.

Trump’s supporters have for days been protesting outside of ballot-counting operations, alleging without evidence that the slow-moving results were proof of cheating. “This isn’t over! This isn’t over! Fake news!” some shouted Saturday as about 1,000 gathered at the Georgia State Capitol after news organizations’ decision to call the election.

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But across America, it was mostly the Democrats taking to the streets in jubilant displays, celebrating what was to them an end to four years of constant crises, chaos and anxiety.

In New York City, some chanted “the nightmare is over.”

“It’s surreal, I feel like I’m free from the clutches of evil,” said Lola Faleit, a 26-year-old human resources manager. “In 2016, we woke up crying. Today we are celebrating. Look, the sky is clear blue, the sun is out, Mother Nature is celebrating, too.”

The nation paused, too, to reflect on electing its first woman vice president, Kamala Harris. Amid a celebration in Berkeley, California, where Harris spent much of her childhood, Mayor Jesse Arreguin said the liberal city’s diversity and progressive values helped shape Harris into a “leader that stands for equality, empowerment and justice.”

The news for some collided with the constant churn of crises the country has faced — the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 236,000 Americans, the economic recession that accompanied it, gun violence and police killings that have forced a national reckoning on racism.

“America can exhale. Decency, civility and democracy won,” said Fred Guttenberg, who became an outspoken opponent of the president after his 14-year-old daughter Jaime was one of 17 slain by a gunman at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. He had been sitting in front of his television since waking up Saturday, waiting for the news. He said it made him “ecstatic.”

In Minneapolis, Ella Mitchell, 30, and Pardha Ponugoti, 29, visited the memorial at the street corner where George Floyd died.

Ponugoti said it was important to be at the Floyd memorial to mark Biden’s win. “It’s like a reminder of the problems that still exist in our society. Just because Biden is president doesn’t mean that all these systemic issues are fixed.”

For many, Nov. 7 at 11:25 a.m., became a moment of such historic magnitude that they say they will forever remember what they were doing, even those engaged in the most mundane weekend activities.

Retired teacher and school principal Kay Nicholas, 73, was vacuuming in her home northwest of Detroit when she heard Biden had been declared the winner.

“All I could say is ‘thank God,’” she said, choking up. “It has nothing to do with Democrat or Republican. It has to do with decency. This country has got integrity and hopefully we can get decency. I think Joe Biden can do it and bring back kindness.”


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