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 an agonizingly vitriolic election and exhausting four-day wait for results came to an end Saturday morning. And for all that joy, there were equal parts sorrow, 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 balconies and banged pots and pans. A pickup truck drove around Washington with a band playing in the bed. In Manhattan, they danced in the streets, banged cowbells and honked their car horns. In Louisville, Ky., Biden supporters gathered on their lawns to toast with champagne.
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 of Trump’s supporters shouted as they gathered at the Georgia State Capitol after news organizations’ decision to call the election.
But across America on Saturday morning, 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 Brooklyn, they 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 New York City. “I feel less worried for my immigrant friends. 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.”
Nov. 7 at 11:25 a.m. became for many of Biden’s supporters a moment of such historic magnitude they suspect they will always remember what they were doing, even 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.”
Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon learned the news from her mother, who called as Dillon wrapped up a run and was getting onto an elevator.
In Atlanta, Kristin Felder, 36, found out while she was delivering a Panera food order for DoorDash.
“The lady I was delivering it to said ‘Biden won!’ And I said ‘Oh my god!’” she recalled. She started crying, and she cancelled her next delivery to join an impromptu party gathering in midtown Atlanta, where people banged pots and pans, wept together, and toasted champagne.
But Trump’s supporters, far from jubilant, were angry, defiant and mistrustful of the news.
Some 75 Trump-supporting protesters had gathered Saturday morning outside the election tabulation center in downtown Phoenix, where the counting remains underway.
Shortly after the news broke, Jake Angeli yelled, “This election has not been called!” Angeli, a regular at pro-Trump rallies who typically wears a wooly fur hat with horns, shouted, “Don’t believe that lie! They got their hands caught in the cookie jar, and we’re going to the Supreme Court!”
As Joe Biden pulled ahead this week as officials in critical battleground states continued counting the unprecedented number of absentee ballots, Trump angrily alleged with no evidence that the election was rigged against him, questioning the vote counting process and trying to cast doubt on the results. Many of his supporters said that they continue to hold out hope despite the results announced Saturday.
“I don’t believe the race is over as yet. I think there’s some shenanigans going on,” said Paul Petrillo, a general contractor from Yardley, Pennsylvania, who believes the Supreme Court should intervene. “We’ll see what happens.”
Chris Marks from Traverse City, Mich., also expressed distrust in how the votes were counted, even suggesting all the votes should be recounted or that the country should hold another election.
“I’m surprised they didn’t just declare the winner before the elections,” he said.
Trump has so far declined to concede or promise a peaceful transfer of power, and many Americans remained anxious about what will happen in the days and weeks ahead. But for many Saturday, it was a relief to Biden’s supporters to celebrate victory, put bitter partisanship aside and dance in the streets, if only for one afternoon.
“It’s a new beginning. What a cloud has been lifted, to see everyone out on the street today elated, after what we went through,” said dentist Michael Sinkin, who ran outside his New York City apartment with pots and pans to bang together in celebration. He returned home twice to get bigger and louder pots.
The party stretched on for blocks.
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