D.C. Prepares for Riots, Instead Sees Celebration

Written By: Annilee Hampton

In the days leading up to the 2020 presidential election, the city of Washington, D.C., prepared to face potential riots for as long as months — but when the election was called, the city encountered not violence, but instead celebration. 

The city began preparing for possible unrest as early as a week before the election, with business owners boarding up their windows and students at George Washington University were advised to stockpile a week’s worth of food, supplies, and medicine the same way they would before a snowstorm or hurricane. In order to ensure adequate staffing, D.C. police had limited leave for their staff starting the weekend of Oct. 31st, and spent $130,000 restocking a supply of less-lethal munitions and chemical irritants for riot control, according to WUSA9. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser stated that public safety officials had been discussing plans for post-election unrest “for many weeks if not months.” “The Washington Post” stated thatD.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham told lawmakers in October:“It is widely believed that there will be civil unrest after the November election regardless of who wins. It is also believed that there is a strong chance of unrest when Washington, D.C., hosts the inauguration in January.”

However, the emotion that filled the city when the election was officially called on Saturday, Nov. 7, four days after Election Day, was not fear or unrest – it was joy. Moments after Joe Biden was declared to have won Pennsylvania, and therefore the election, cheers erupted throughout the city, with music playing from balconies and windows and drivers stuck in traffic honking their horns over and over again. Crowds marched to Black Lives Matter Plaza in front of the White House, where just five months prior protestors were forcibly removed from the area so that President Donald Trump could walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church. While the atmosphere was completely different on Saturday, one aspect of the protests still remained —a banner that read “Arrest Trump”.

Despite the large number of D.C. residents celebrating Biden’s victory, a number of Trump supporters expressed their displeasure with the result, with over one hundred gathering at the base of the Washington Monument, chanting “Four more years!” and “Stop the fraud!” This group eventually caught the attention of Biden supporters celebrating in the grass below, but did nothing to dampen their spirits, continuing to dance, enjoy picnics and popping bottles of champagne. 

As night fell, Black Lives Matter Plaza was still filled with hundreds of people, with the celebrations having gone on for over eight hours. People were celebrating not only Biden’s victory, but also Kamala Harris, who is not only the first female Vice President of the United States, but also the first Black woman and first South Asian woman to hold the position. “There is going to be a Black woman vice president of the United States — and no one, no one, can take that away from us,” said Angelique McKenna, a Black woman from Arlington, VA to a reporter from “The Washington Post.” “I believe Kamala will fight for equality for us, for all people.”

The music and cheers finally quieted on Saturday night, but was replaced with a new sound — that of Harris and Biden’s victory speeches, their words being played through a speaker. Crowds gathered together, listening as the historic address was made. “Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses,” President-Elect Biden declared. “And what presidents say in this battle matters. It’s time for our better angels to prevail. Tonight, the whole world is watching America, and I believe in our best, America is a beacon for the globe.”

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