As night fell on D.C., thousands of people continued celebrating the news that former Vice President Joe Biden had become President-elect earlier Saturday.
WTOP’s reporters were out in the city all day, and as the evening hours progressed, they said a beer, champagne and music-fueled party dominated the streets close to the White House.
In the same neighborhood, just five months earlier, social justice protesters had been forcibly removed from Lafayette Square as President Donald Trump walked two blocks to St.John’s Episcopal Church to take a photo with a bible.
WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez was on the street in late May, and he was out again on Saturday. He said it was a different atmosphere five months later. While the party raged, there was still one aspect of protest: a banner read “Arrest Trump.”
November 7, 2020 | LISTEN: Night falls at Black Lives Matter Plaze (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
The only time the music in the plaza, which ranged from D.C.’s famed Go-Go to the horns of a Mariachi band throughout the day, came when someone connected a speaker to their phone in order to play President-elect Biden’s victory speech from an outdoor stage in Delaware.
With anxiety high in the District during the few post-election days this week, many residents were ready to party Saturday after having spent multiple hours sitting on the edge of their seats and checking their smartphone for election news.
Here’s how it unfolded:
Biden’s victory hailed by dancing and blasting horns
Shortly after former Vice President Joe Biden was announced president-elect, crowds rushed out to celebrate on D.C.’s streets, and thousands gathered near the White House.
At 15th Street and K Street NW, people were inspired to dance due to the likely election outcome.
WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez said the crowds started at the White House and branched off throughout much of the city.
Uliano spoke with revelers in downtown D.C. for a report as the afternoon wore on in the square, just a few blocks Northwest of the White House. The theme seemed to be celebrating a return to normalcy after four years of Donald Trump.
November 7, 2020 | LISTEN: Celebrating a return to normalcy in McPherson Square. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
Alvarez describes the scene as “one massive party with the amount of people yelling and honking downtown and more headed in.”
#NOW: Thousands pouring into the streets near the White House moments after Biden was declared the winner. Washington feels like one massive party with the amount of people yelling and honking downtown and there’s still more headed in. pic.twitter.com/l6eHs5JSDk
Some people brought Champagne to enjoy in the streets as they celebrated Biden’s projected win and one jumped onto the roof of a nearby car.
Near total gridlock downtown with people driving around the White House waving Biden flags and banners, cheering out their windows. Not your typical weekend traffic! Saw someone climb onto the roof of their car and yell WE’RE FREE. pic.twitter.com/E9fz5ECfkj
Alvarez, walking close to Black Lives Matter Plaza, said much of the Champagne cork-popping had left a sticky-sweet residue of alcohol along the blocks close to the White House.
H and 16 — the site of countless protests and police crackdowns in months past — is nothing but a big party now. Choose your adventure, you’ve got Rage Against the Machine in one corner and Miley Cyrus in another. People sitting on stoplights. pic.twitter.com/D7H1zSlmTX
On Northeast D.C.’s H Street, cars blasted their horns and pedestrians celebrated in the street shortly after the news spread at 11:30 a.m. One man walked down Florida Avenue NW carrying an American flag, yelling “Biden!” every few seconds, as cars driving by honked in affirmation.
LISTEN: Cars and trucks honk horns to celebrate Biden win announcement. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
Reaction on Capitol Hill
WTOP’s Sarah Beth Hensley, reporting from Capitol Hill’s Lincoln Park, spoke to a group of D.C. residents who were celebrating Biden’s victory.
“For people who’ve lived here a really long time, this feels like the end of a long four-year nightmare,” said Michael Wallace. “I got a text from a friend abroad who put it really well: ‘normalcy may now resume.'”
Becky Pfordresher, who was part of the picnicking group, said “the trust in institutions and systems is really important, and I feel like a figure like Biden, who is a trusted source, is very grounding, very anchoring. It helps to feel like there’s a solid foundation underneath you again.”
By midafternoon Saturday, WTOP’s Alvarez said another block in D.C. had been cut off to traffic – 17th Street NW, and the extra street open to pedestrians had eased the crunch along 16th Street.
Back on the streets near the White House, WTOP’s Dick Uliano said the party-like atmosphere continued at dusk, as he saw a Mariachi band playing at an intersection was just five months ago two blocks from the epicenter of protests in D.C.
November 7, 2020 | LISTEN: Mariachi band plays in downtown D.C. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
Reaction in Maryland
WTOP’s Kate Ryan spoke with those on the streets of Takoma Park, Maryland along New Hampshire Avenue on the border of Maryland and D.C. on Saturday afternoon. One resident, Gabra Moussa, originally of Cameroon, said he was not able to vote because he’s not an American citizen, but he was optimistic that Biden’s election would elicit some change, in spite of some hard work ahead.
“The last four years have been a lot of upside-down,” Moussa said. “Joe Biden has to bring the whole country together, and it’s difficult work.”
Glennys Medina, one of a number of women who own businesses in the neighborhood, said the Biden ticket, and with it, the elevation of Sen. Kamala Harris to Vice President will serve as an inspiration for women of color.
“I hope that she can make it to the presidency, those are my hopes,” said Medina, who owns Emma Hair Salon, near the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue.
Nora Portillo, of El Alazan Western Wear, said Biden’s election has her hopeful about change ahead.
“It’s going to be like a 180,” she said.
Reaction in Charlottesville
About 120 miles southwest of the District, residents of Charlottesville, Virginia reacted to the news. The city, which is home to the University of Virginia, saw itself in headlines the first summer of President Donald Trump’s term after Heather Heyer, a counter protester during a white supremacist group’s rally was killed.
On Saturday, Don Gathers, the Deacon of First Baptist Church, said an impromptu celebration gathered on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. He talked with WTOP’s Neal Augenstein.
He said he was “exhilarated, exhausted and rejuvenated,” among other things. “Like minded people,” Gather said, heard a call via social media “to celebrate, and dance in the streets. … It’s been a long, arduous, four-year journey.”