The Slatest

What’s Really Going On Outside the Final Vote Count in Philadelphia

Philadelphia outside the Convention Center on Thursday.
The author’s view in Philadelphia outside the Convention Center on Thursday. Sam Adams

When Donald Trump warned that “bad things happen in Philadelphia” at the first debate in September, the city took it as a point of pride. So it’s not surprising that when conservative activists started threatening to flood the city to disrupt the counting of ballots, the response from Philadelphians was a hearty “bring it.”

But at the Count the Vote rally outside the Convention Center where the remaining ballots are being tabulated, the mood was more celebratory than confrontational. A few dozen Trump supporters, overseen by at least an equal number of news cameras, milled around listlessly in a fenced-off area, holding signs saying “Biden Got Beat” and “Sorry, Polls Are Closed.” The cameras seemed less interested in the scene across the street, where protesters in Black Lives Matters shirts danced to Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September.” There was a brief flurry of activity after someone reached into the Trump pen and tore off a supporter’s MAGA hat, but it subsided quickly, and the two sides went back to mostly ignoring each other.

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Quamere Boggs, who’d come out from West Philadelphia, beamed as he leaned over the barrier, swinging a Count the Vote banner over a handful of Trump flags. “I’m trying to get Trump out of office,” he said. “He’s a disgrace to our country.” Asked if he was confident that Biden would win when all the votes were counted, he responded, “I’m confident that Biden gonna win regardless. I think that God’s gonna get Trump out of office.”

Nicolas O’Rourke, the state organizing director for the Working Families Party, manned the DJ setup off to the side, bumping soulful crowd-pleasers and coaxing the Count the Vote demonstrators to join the party—and stay away from the Trump pen. “They over there mad, but we over here glad, family,” he said.

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O’Rourke’s playlist also included “Fight the Power” and “This Is America,” neither of them exactly hymns to the orderly functioning of bureaucracy, and while there were plenty of Biden signs, there were also people protesting the city’s history of police brutality, issues that counting the votes won’t begin to fix. “You have folks out here who may or not be excited about Biden,” O’Rourke said. “You may have folks out here who are totally indifferent to either candidate. But what they’re excited about is making sure that democracy is no longer encroached upon by the steady march of fascism coming from Donald Trump. We do believe that as long as every vote is counted, the proper result will come forth.

“The message that we’re are sending through our music is that joy is an act of resistance,” O’Rourke continued. “That yes, there are things that enrage us, that make us upset, but the reality is there is a love that has us all together. We have seen that there have been major points in history that have caused tense moments, but the reality is we believe deeply that our side is committed to love and to justice and righteousness, and that’s what we want to express.”

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