The fence that separates D.C.’s Black Lives Matter Plaza from the White House is now mostly opaque, covered with photographs of Black victims of police violence and signs making election-related demands (“COUNT EVERY VOTE,” in all different styles and colors). Just after noon on Saturday, Jeffrey Comer found a small empty space with a direct view of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and got to work covering it up. He’d made the cardboard sign 15 minutes earlier. It said “EVICTION NOTICE,” and he’d signed it “THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.” After a few seconds, and with the help of a handful of twist-ties, he’d posted his notice, and made the Trump White House invisible.
In D.C., at least the part outside the barricades the Trump administration has erected, Nov. 7 was a day for unambiguous, unguarded triumph—the chance to holler a loud goodbye to a soon-to-be ex-resident. On our way down to the White House, a police car drove past, and the officer inside pumped his fist out the window as he passed. A moment later, a woman on a scooter raised her iced coffee triumphantly. Pedestrians whooped and shouted back at both of them. It seemed like every driver in every car was honking her horn. We heard “Fuck Donald Trump” blasting from four different stereos.
At the corner of 15th and I streets, the Critical Condition Band played a celebratory go-go concert from the back of a truck. When they asked Biden supporters to put their hands up, every arm shot into the sky.
A couple of blocks away, Ryan Puleo smoked a cigar. He said he’d been saving it for a couple of years, with the plan to light it up as soon as Trump was gone. How did it taste? “Like victory.”
Shiva, 30, said she hadn’t allowed herself to celebrate until the cable networks called the election for Biden. As soon as they did, she played Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind.” An hour later, she was dancing in the street. “I’m still in awe and disbelief,” she said. “I’m a little worried I’m dreaming. 2020 has just been a year, so I’m like, ‘Is this real?’ And I think it’s real.”
Terrell Munson, manning a cooler full of beverages, was getting the crowd hype. “This is our house!” he shouted. “We’re gonna take this fence down! It actually feels like America again—yes it does! Ice cold water!” Munson likened Trump’s defeat to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. “I am an African American in America and I love being here,” he said. “I actually believe in the Constitution. In order to form a more perfect union, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
For the people who’d swarmed downtown, the 2020 election felt like a reassertion of the nation’s values, and a return to sanity. “All I know is I can breathe a fresh breath of air,” said Robyn Rawles, who, as a Philadelphian, couldn’t help bragging that her city’s votes had helped boot Trump out of office. “I couldn’t go through four more years. I woke up the day after Election Day and there was a slight worry. But to now know it’s all done—amazing.” For Rawles’ friend Cassandra Rivera, a Biden presidency represents a chance for calm. “It just feels like I can walk down the street again and not worry,” she said.
There were a lot of children in Black Lives Matter Plaza on Saturday who were too young to remember a president who wasn’t Donald Trump. A woman named Anita was standing off to the side of the revelry with her young son, leaning up against the fence and looking happy and overwhelmed. She felt thrilled to have Trump out of her life and hopeful that a Biden administration would unite the country. “And me being an African American woman, and me having a biracial son … it’s a new chapter opening,” she said. “It’s for people like my son.”