CommunityElection 2020

Black Lives Matter Plaza Celebrates Biden-Harris Victory

By Monday afternoon, much of the pandemonium that erupted on Black Lives Matter Plaza last weekend had subsided. However, people celebrating a Biden-Harris electoral victory continued to converge along the fence at the front of the plaza where, for weeks, activists blasted music, danced and erected various types of anti-Trump artwork.

The raucous sight throughout that portion of Downtown D.C. had been especially compelling for passersby, including Black federal government employees who begrudgingly weathered the storm of a Trump presidency in the hopes that he would only serve one term.

“Everyone’s doing their job, but you want someone who’s leading from the front and with integrity,” the Navy veteran and anonymous government employee of more than 20 years told The Informer.

“We don’t consider President Trump a leader, so we look to our department heads because they have integrity. All the agencies I’ve dealt with kept it professional regardless of what Trump said and that’s good for our country.”

Over the last four years, Trump’s presidency has been characterized by soiled relationships with government officials and media, mass deportations, overt racism and xenophobia, and what Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly characterized as the catastrophic mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite predictions that he would suffer an overwhelming loss, Trump secured wins in several Midwestern and Southern states, mostly with the help of white voters. Not long before Black people delivered urban districts in Pennsylvania and Michigan, early numbers briefly cast doubt on the outcome of the election.

On Saturday, not long after the Associated Press announced Biden as president-elect, multitudes of celebrants flooded Black Lives Matter Plaza to unleash tension that had accumulated amid days of ballot counting. For hours, people of various ages, races and ethnicities cheered and waved Biden-Harris campaign signs and other pieces of artwork.

Months earlier, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser commissioned the painting of the globally renowned “Black Lives Matter” mural on the street near where federal troops, at the prodding of Trump, clashed with protesters who coalesced around the late George Floyd and other victims of police brutality.

By November 7, the mood downtown proved much different.

Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and alumni of Howard University counted among those who showed love to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. People also danced to the sounds of go-go music emanating throughout the stretch of 16th Street.

Though some of those who visited Black Lives Matter taunted President Donald Trump with expletives and catchy tunes, celebrations remained mostly peaceful.

For some revelers like Omar Arnold, reactions to a Biden-Harris victory had to be a bit calculated. He said that it proved prudent to practice caution, especially since Trump hadn’t conceded.

“I want to celebrate but I have to wait until [things with] the Electoral College are smooth,” said Arnold, a native Washingtonian and GenXer.

“Once that’s done, I’ll truly party but for now, I’ll enjoy all of this and wait. I thought it was going to be a 50-50 shot. I knew people didn’t like Trump but it came down to how the states and congressional districts played. It was frustrating [until] you saw things play out later,” he said.

By Saturday, when Arnold and the rest of the world heard that Biden had surpassed 270 electoral votes, a stubborn Trump had already embarked on a series of legal challenges in battleground states.

On Monday afternoon, when Arnold returned to Black Lives Matter Plaza, the Trump administration further signaled the president’s frustrations by not releasing funds to start President-elect Biden’s transition initiatives.

One day later, the White House told federal agencies to carry on with budget plans for February, even though Trump would be out of office by then. This counted as part of what another federal government employee in Black Lives Matter said he would not miss in the next four years.

The federal government employee, who asked he be identified as J, spent much of Monday reflecting on his walks through Lafayette Park and around the White House in the days and months before the coronavirus pandemic and racial uprisings.

He told The Informer that having Biden and Harris in the White House would be a nice change of pace.

“I’m ecstatic for change [because] it’s been a long time coming,” said J, who’s worked near Lafayette Park for more than 20 years, “Hopefully we can look forward to some change. I’m not expecting a whole lot different but I’d rather not be lied to.”

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