WASHINGTON — As soon as media outlets called the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, thousands of excited supporters flocked to the streets of the nation’s capital to express their joy.
The city ― which overwhelmingly voted for Biden ― was jubilant. Cars honked as people shouted and cheered, holding signs celebrating Biden’s win and gloating about Donald Trump’s defeat.
At the center of the activity were three blocks of 16th Street heading straight to the White House ― an area now known as Black Lives Matter Plaza. Nearly everyone wore masks as they listened to “FDT” by YG and Nipsey Hussle on repeat in the same spot where protesters were tear-gassed this summer so Trump could have a photo-op with a Bible.
Thousands of people turned out on the unseasonably warm fall day to breathe a sigh of relief that Trump would finally be out of the White House. Some popped bottles of Champagne, others danced to music blaring from speakers.
Even former members of the Republican Party came out to celebrate.
A man who only identified himself as Ken drove from Annapolis, Maryland, to participate in the celebration once he heard that Biden had become the president-elect.
“I felt triumphant,” the 55-year-old, who said he has been a Republican his entire life, told HuffPost. “I don’t know what I would have done had Trump won. I would have been really depressed, so I’m really happy.”
Arika Johnson, a Black gay former member of the Coast Guard, said she left the military because of Trump’s divisiveness. “[Biden] will unify us. It’s not about hate anymore,” she said. “We need to hold his feet to the fire, so he does everything he says he’s gonna do.”
She said she believed Biden would take the coronavirus pandemic more seriously than Trump has. “I want to see him help with COVID,” Johnson said. “We need some policies in there to make sure we’re staying safe and the country is healthy again.”
Everett Hines, a Black man from D.C., also said he hoped Biden would be able to tamp down the raging pandemic.
“He’s gonna level it down, because he’ll take it seriously,” he said. “I think he’s gonna get that White House sterilized.”
The coronavirus pandemic has so far killed more than 237,000 Americans, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Biden has promised to prioritize getting the pandemic under control and is set to announce a coronavirus task force on Monday, according to multiple reports.
Julius Olalusi and Seun Babalola said they came down to Black Lives Matter Plaza to serve as DJs for the growing crowd as soon as they heard the news about Biden.
“This is an extremely new day in America. Everybody woke up in D.C. and saw the news, and it was more than enough reason to celebrate,” said Olalusi, 25. “And there’s nothing more unifying than music.”
The mood could not have been more different from the day after the election in 2016. At that time, D.C. ― which overwhelmingly went for Hillary Clinton ― felt like it was in mourning, with even the weather gray and overcast.
Other supporters outside the White House were elated by the fact that Harris, a graduate of Howard University, would become the first HBCU graduate to ever hold the position of vice president. Many Black women were wearing apparel relating to Harris’ sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Ashlei Brown Grier, a Ph.D. student at Howard and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, said she hoped Harris’ momentous achievement would put a spotlight on the plight of HBCUs.
“I just feel like [things are] possible now,” said Grier, 31. “We need more funding. We need more representation, and it’s possible because we now have a vice president who is an HBCU grad and my soror.”
Theo Guidry and his wife, Gina, came to Black Lives Matter Plaza wearing a Morehouse College sweater and Alpha Kappa Alpha shirt, respectively.
“There’s a perception that you can’t get to the highest levels if you go to an HBCU, but we’ve reached it with Kamala,” said Theo, 33. “It signifies that the Democratic Party is listening and not taking all the Black votes for granted.”
Travis Waldron contributed reporting.