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Chicagoans Celebrate Biden/Harris Victory, Trump Defeat

Celebrations erupted all over the Chicagoland area on Saturday as the news came in that former Vice President Joe Biden is now the president elect of the United States. 

After a tense few days of close counting of votes in several key battleground states, Biden crossed the threshold of 270 electoral votes when Pennsylvania was called for him on Saturday morning. The Associated Press said it called the state for Biden “after it determined that the remaining ballots left to be counted would not allow Trump to catch up,” with Biden ahead by a 34,234 vote lead. 

A man holds a sign that reads “he gone” in front of Trump Tower on Wacker Drive. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

Across the street from Trump Tower along all of Wacker Drive between Michigan and Wabash, revelers gathered to celebrate – waving flags, taking selfies of their middle fingers with the tower in the background, and even popping champagne bottles. For hours, cars drove past the intersection of Michigan and Wacker with drivers and passengers honking their horns, waving flags and signs, and cheering. 

A smaller rally earlier in the day organized by labor unions and community groups to call for votes to be counted turned into part celebration, part demand that Trump peacefully concede power. 

“All of us together have been fighting for 4 years…and you know what, we’ve made Donald Trump a one term president,” said Jason Riger of Indivisible Chicago. 

“Donald Trump is still saying that he won the election, he’s saying he’ll hold onto power with a series of legal fights,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey. “I wanna be clear that we don’t ultimately depend on just legal mechanisms and votes by themselves to defend democracy, ultimately, it’s the people that defend democracy. It’s our own willingness to put your own voices, to come together, to organize, to be strong, to put our bodies on the line if that’s what it takes to make sure that our will is reflected in this country. We have a long way to go.”

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey speaks at a rally celebrating the defeat of President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

“Ultimately right now we’re happy at this moment and we’re here to say clearly that we’re gonna defend democracy if that’s what it takes,” Sharkey added. 

Trump has still yet to concede defeat in the election, despite Biden’s lead of more than 4.5 million in the popular vote and 290 electoral votes in Biden’s favor. Instead, the President, his campaign team, and his loyalists have been focused on undermining faith in the results and the process. The Trump team has launched multiple lawsuits and pushed several conspiracy theories alleging voter fraud with either circumstantial or no evidence at all. According to CNN, the Trump campaign is considering publishing obituaries of people they allege voted in this election, and having campaign rallies to amplify that message. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also took to the streets, giving a short speech on a bullhorn Saturday afternoon. Lightfoot said that it was a “great day for our city and country,” and that “we’re taking our democracy back.”

“We should absolutely celebrate this victory, we should savor every minute of it. But the hard work starts tomorrow. As much as we love Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, they need to be true to the promises they made to us.”

Illinois Governor JB Pritkzer also offered his congratulations to Biden and Harris in a thread on Twitter. 

“With the race now called by several reputable national news outlets, I want to congratulate @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris on a historic win,” Pritzker tweeted. “I look forward to working with you and your administration to build a better future for Illinois and our entire nation. Replacing the worst president our country has ever seen, Joe Biden is a good, decent and empathetic man who comes with a national plan to address the pandemic and economic crisis. I’m confident that his leadership will unite Americans to save lives and livelihoods. As Vice President, Kamala Harris will be the first woman, first Black person and first South Asian American person to serve in the role. Her accomplishment and passion will inspire generations of women and girls — demonstrating that there are no limits on their potential.”

While there were plenty of Biden/Harris signs and flags in both Union Park and in the Loop, Saturday’s celebrations were as much about Trump’s defeat, rather than Biden’s victory. It was as much as a referendum on the president’s continued racist, xenophobic, and fascist rhetoric and policies. In addition to Biden/Harris campaign swag, large banners that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police” were held by revelers at the front of the celebration near Trump Tower. Signs promoting CPAC, an ordinance for an all civilian elected police accountability board in Chicago, as well as demanding action on climate change, fighting racism, sexism, and bigotry, and a host of other issues were spotted throughout the day and night. 

Tanya Watkins, executive director of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, speaks at a rally celebrating the defeat of President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Photo by Aaron Cynic.

“We can no longer allow disparity, racism, injustice to dwell in our human being. It cannot live in our house,” said Deborah Lane of the Amalgamated Transit workers Union. 

An America with Biden at the helm is preferable to one with Trump for many, but that doesn’t mean that people won’t demand more of the president elect than to simply be someone who isn’t the former president.

“What I’m clear about is that it’s time we demand more of this country and the democratic party that’s constantly pandering for our votes,” said Tanya Watkins, executive director of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation. “It’s time we fight to build a nation and a democracy that is right for and deserving of our full participation. This fight don’t end with this election, we have to ensure no matter who is elected to represent this country, that person is held accountable to us. So Uncle Joe, we’ll see you in these streets.”

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