Washington, DC – A festive atmosphere took over the streets outside the White House on Saturday, as thousands of jubilant Joe Biden supporters honked car horns, banged on pots and cheered to celebrate the Democratic candidate’s victory in the United States elections.
“I could dance and scream all day long,” Bernadette Etienne, a retired translator, told Al Jazeera from Black Lives Matter Plaza.
“There is so much misery to expel, so much hatred to get rid of,” Etienne said. “It’s been four horrible nightmarish years.”
The lively crowd of people, most of whom wore masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, danced, played music and drank champagne straight from bottles.
Streets were closed to traffic in the US capital as large crowds of people kept arriving to the sound of car horns and cowbells. Some waved US and LGBTQ flags. Many wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts.
The Associated Press declared Biden the winner of the tightly contested election on Saturday morning, after days of waiting. The former US vice president is expected to take the reins of a deeply divided nation that is struggling to contain a pandemic that has killed more than 236,000 Americans.
“I was getting ready for this day for a long time,” Andrew Hasson, who joined the crowd outside the White House, told Al Jazeera. “This week was super stressful just waiting for the results to come in, but this is a great feeling and DC feels alive again.”
Trump supporters were noticeably absent from the scene outside the White House, though that is unsurprising: Washington, DC is a Democratic stronghold where over 93 percent of people voted for Biden.
Trump voters protested in other parts of the country, refusing to accept defeat and pushing unfounded theories that widespread voter fraud was “stealing” Trump’s second term in office.
Trump has so far refused to concede and has promised to challenge the result. But legal experts say Trump’s accusations of fraud are unfounded and are unlikely to succeed.
“I think there will be a period in the US and around the world of relief and celebration and rightfully so, and then a period of healing and bringing the country together again,” said Brice Hall, who was wrapped in an American flag.
Trump’s time in office was characterised by harsh immigration policies, including a ban preventing citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, as well as withdrawal from several international agreements and a refusal to condemn white supremacists.
“I’m overjoyed,” said Brown Warren, an immigration lawyer who came with friends to celebrate.
“I personally have seen how Donald Trump’s policies have very negatively impacted not only immigration law, but this country as a whole,” she said from behind a blue mask. “So it’s very exciting to think about how the next year could look like moving forward without Donald Trump as a president.”
Elsewhere in DC, residents stood on their balconies and gathered on rooftops to cheer.
Biden, 77, who served for eight years as Vice President under Barack Obama, galvanized a broad coalition of voters across the US around the notion that Trump was a threat to American democracy and to the “soul” of the nation.
In a statement on Saturday, Biden said it was time for the nation “to unite and to heal”.
“With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation,” he said. “There’s nothing we can’t do if we do it together.”
Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, is also making history. She is the first Black woman and the first person of South Asian descent to become vice president.
In Black Lives Matter Plaza, which has seen intense protests over the summer demanding racial equality, some were hugging and crying, and others screamed and pumped their fists in the air. Many carried signs reading, “Bye Don”.
Joelle Freelander, who came with several of her friends to celebrate, said she felt relieved and hopeful that with Biden as president, Trump’s policies, as well as his rhetoric, would come to an end.
“Trump really divided the country,” Freelander said while holding a champagne bottle.
“This may not be how everyone feels right now but the messaging that Biden gives when he speaks about uniting versus stoking the flames, is a very hopeful feeling and it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.
“We’re going to be partying all night.”