Tuesday, September 21, 2021

in-focus

In a left-leaning capital, cautious hope amid protesters


WASHINGTON - There was a new feeling in the air Friday as crowds of protesters descended on downtown Washington, toting homemade signs, flags and stickers: Hope.

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A woman hangs a U.S. flag upside down at Black Lives Matter Plaza as the nation waits for the results of the presidential election on Nov. 6, 2020 in Washington, D.C. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Ricky Carioti

For the first time in four years, some said, they believed the end of the Trump era was in sight.

Three days after Election Day, whispers of vote margins and electoral college numbers ricocheted through a crowd gathered at McPherson Square, a few blocks from the White House. Protesters approached members of the news media asking for the latest developments.

"They call it yet?" a man asked a photographer.

"No, not yet."

Small crowds have gathered daily near the White House as ballots are counted in the key battleground states that will determine who lives in the White House next year. Cheers erupted Friday when newly counted ballots brought Biden expanded leads in Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania - a state with 20 electoral votes that would put Biden over the 270 threshold needed to win.

Community organizers from nearby swing states told stories of first-time voters and flipped counties.

Chants of "Count every vote! Every vote counts!" and "Trump, Pence out now!" filled the street. A flatbed pulled up, blasting go-go music played by a band on the back.

"I don't want to jinx it," a woman said in hushed tones to her companion. "But this is the happiest I've felt in a long time."

Thais Carrero, 29, the Pennsylvania director of Latino advocacy group CASA in Action, told the crowd how she led an effort to turn out thousands of new Latino voters in Pennsylvania.

"We did our job," she said to rising cheers.

Carrero, a first-time voter herself, still wore her "I voted" sticker, crumpled and peeling, on her sweatshirt.

Many of those assembled in the left-leaning nation's capital cheered the updated vote counts while promising four more years of protests, activism and resistance. Nearly everyone wore a mask.

"While we celebrate this victory, we must also use it as fuel and inspiration," Crystal Gong, a trainer with youth-led climate group Sunrise D.C., told the crowd. "I need to see you in the streets."

Gong shared the story of her parents' immigration from China: the challenges they had encountered here, the discrimination and fear - particularly over the past four years.

She recently asked them if they ever regretted coming here, Gong said. If they would do it again.

"Of course I would," her mother told her.

"By coming to the U.S., they gave me a chance to fight for the democracy that they moved for," she said. "We need to take our time this week to celebrate . . . but Trump is not the end of Trumpism. When this guy leaves office, it is not the end of injustice."

Sookyung Oh, a community organizer from Nakasec Action Fund, which conducts outreach in Asian American communities, came to the rally dressed as a mailbox. On the front, she glued the words "count every vote," on the back she wrote the same message in Korean, Vietnamese and Mandarin.

"I don't know about you, but I just want this . . . to be over so we can start protesting Biden and Harris to get what we want done," she told the crowd.

"Our problems didn't start with Trump," she said later. "With Trump, I felt like we were trying to just get an acknowledgment of our humanity - but with Biden and Harris we probably won't have to fight as much for that, so now we can get back to the issues."

The rally brought together supporters from different states and walks of life: climate activists, military veterans, immigrants, longtime protesters and those incensed by what they saw as an attempt by Trump to delegitimize a free and fair election.

Even Gritty, the muppet-like hockey mascot from Philadelphia with a cultlike following, made an appearance.

The rally commenced with a short march to Black Lives Matter Plaza, where other celebrations were underway. International journalists suspended live shots to accommodate the converging crowd.

Protesters stepped over stools and cables, marched past merchants selling Biden-Harris 2020 merchandise and toward the tall metal fence encircling Lafayette Square, across from The White House.

New signs had been added overnight.

"Do the right thing!" one declared.

"You're fired, Donald!" read another.

As the crowd marched, protesters raised their fists and began to chant: "This is what democracy looks like!"

Published : November 07, 2020

By : The Washington Post · Marissa J. Lang · NATIONAL, POLITICS