Thousands of protesters gather in D.C. as election races play out

Media Credit: Kate Carpenter | Staff Photographer

Relatively calm protests outside the White House evolved throughout the day, attracting hundreds.

Large, peaceful protests outside the White House and throughout D.C. unfolded Tuesday night as the outcome of the presidential election and key U.S. Senate races remained unclear.

As votes started to roll in near sundown, a crowd gathered near the White House at McPherson Square to watch CNN’s election night programming on a jumbotron and on the north side of Lafayette Park at Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Protesters arrived at the demonstrations largely in small groups, but some were part of planned trips organized by activist groups. Protests were concentrated around a few blocks surrounding the White House as much of the rest of downtown D.C. – including the Trump International Hotel, the U.S. Capitol Building and the Supreme Court – stayed quiet.

Rachel Bergman, a member of the District’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, said she came to McPherson Square to paint signs reading “Demand Democracy” and “Count Every Vote.” She said she hopes Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will win the election, but she didn’t think results would be fully counted by the end of the night.

As of midnight, President Donald Trump was poised to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes, but the winner of many pivotal swing states – including Georgia, North Carolina and battlegrounds in the Midwest – remained unknown.

Sarah Urtz | Staff Photographer

Hundreds of people head to the White House in anticipation of presidential election results.

“We believe in the democratic process and an equitable and better world for everyone,” Bergman said. “And we will be defending the democratic process in any way we can through art and through using our voices during this election cycle because that’s something we believe in. And this president has raised concerns that that might not happen, and we want to be proactive and be using our voices now.”

Trip Ortega, a restaurant manager in D.C., said he decided to come by the White House because he wanted to be involved in a “big moment.” Ortega, a Biden supporter, said he was “surprised” that demonstrations were “really relaxed,” adding that he was planning to head home at 11 p.m. or midnight.

Many businesses around the city boarded up in anticipation of unrest as election results rolled in, but the damage to storefronts was limited to occasional graffiti on the wooden boards covering store windows and doors.

“I was kind of surprised how chill everything is currently, but the night is young,” he said.

As polls closed on the West Coast, hundreds of protesters marched from McPherson Square up Vermont Ave NW to Thomas Circle at about 11 p.m. After roughly 15 minutes, about 300 protesters left the circle down 14th Street NW to meet up with other demonstrators at Black Lives Matter Plaza at 16th and K streets NW.

As the protest attracted more and more participants, chanting “no justice, no peace,” the crowd moved toward Lafayette Park before shifting north up 17th Street NW and turning west onto Massachusetts Avenue NW. Nearly 1,000 protesters continued toward Dupont Circle, arriving at midnight.

At the time of publication, scattered groups continue to gather in various locations, but protests have so far remained peaceful. Biden and Trump both spoke late into the night, with the latter declaring victory before any major news organization has projected a winner.

Lizzie Mintz and Parth Kotak contributed reporting.

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