Hundreds of people have turned out around the White House last week, each carrying their own hopes for the next four years.
Before former Vice President Joe Biden was projected the country’s 46th president Saturday, some said they headed to D.C. to demand a new leader, while others said they hope to preserve the current state of America under President Donald Trump. Once the winner was called, hundreds more flocked to the White House to rejoice, and a handful quietly retreated in sorrow.
The Hatchet talked with more than a dozen demonstrators buzzing around the city between Tuesday and Saturday about what changes they want to see in office and why they took to the streets.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the people who stood out in the crowd:
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and gun-control activist David Hogg said he arrived in D.C. Saturday after weeks of campaigning for other Democratic candidates across the country. He said he headed to the White House that morning, just in time to hear that Biden was the projected president-elect.
The 20-year-old said Biden could still improve his gun reform proposals, but he added that he’s “incredibly proud” he was voted into office. He said Biden has proposed “comprehensive” gun violence prevention plans, like banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“I think this shows a seismic shift, especially in this election that shows the gun violence prevention movement wasn’t something that just had an effect in 2018,” he said. “It’s something that is still having an effect today and is a winning issue.”
Artist Jerome Sudi, also known as Paradise Vibing on Instagram, said he’d crossed his fingers for a Biden win over the past week. At the intersection of 16th and H Street, Sudi set up his easel on Election Day and got to work on his latest canvas: a depiction he described as an “anonymous Black figure” knocking Trump to the ground.
“It’s a play on round two, because round one, clearly Donald Trump won,” he said. “But round two: Hopefully, he gets out of here.”
Sudi added that his artwork can show viewers that corruption in America can be overcome by a new generation. He said on Tuesday that he would continue painting in front of Lafayette Square until a winner is announced.
While the presence at Black Lives Matter Plaza appeared overwhelmingly anti-Trump, Kehinde Ogun of Brooklyn, New York, danced in front of booing crowds with a cigarette in his mouth and flashing a Make America Great Again shirt, which he said was his way to show his “410 percent support for the president.”
Having just been released from prison last month as a result of the Trump’s administration First Step Act – which aimed to reduce recidivism nationwide and lessen the punishment for some offenses – Ogun said he voted for Trump because he believes the president has helped release many other Black men from penitentiaries. He pointed to one report estimating that more than 3,000 inmates have been released since the law was passed.
“No president has ever done that before,” he said. “This is the best president to serve this country.”
As demonstrators unraveled a banner inscribed with “Remove Trump,” Sam Bethea held up his own “Jesus Saves” sign, clashing with BLM activists. Bethea said he has been preaching and evangelizing on the street for six years, regardless of the political climate.
“We deserve judgment, but I’m crying up for God to have mercy on America,” he said.
Although demonstrators yelled at the 48-year-old preacher’s face – with some proclaiming he was a “fake Christian” – Bethea said he was confident his faith could reunify the country. Bethea declined to say who exactly he voted for, but he said he supports the candidate with the most stringent policies against issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
Donning a 17th century bubonic plague mask to remind onlookers about the current COVID-19 pandemic, DMV-native Jessica Senning said regardless of who wins, America needs to bring more voices – particularly those of people of color – into office.
“You cannot paint a Monet with a black and a white – you need a rainbow,” Senning said. “So why are we relying on a two-party system to represent a whole country? It’s stupid.”
Senning added that no matter who prevails this election, Trump’s attacks on the pillars of American ideals like cooperation and tolerance means this is “the end of democracy.” Senning said she wants to construct a new system where more than one political leader leads to ensure one set of political beliefs does not dominate the country.
Having participated in both BLM protests and riots over the last five months, “M” – who declined to provide her last name – said she demonstrated at the White House to demand that Americans do more than vote to create substantial change on issues like criminal justice reform and voter suppression.
“It’s time to make people scared,” she said. “It’s time to make racists scared. It is time to make corporations scared.”
“M” said she abstained from voting because she believes her vote will not make an impact until the Electoral College is abolished and the country creates a new political system.
Like Monte Pearson, some believe the presidency was stolen once before when the Supreme Court sided with the Bush campaign in 2000 and ruled that a timely recount of ballots in Florida was unconstitutional. He said he drove to D.C. from Boston on Monday because he wanted to stand outside the White House and demand that all votes are counted, considering Trump and his allies have falsely proclaimed for weeks that poll workers were counting illegally-casted ballots.
“We’d rather wait and have every vote get counted [rather] than hurry up and have the election not be legitimate,” Pearson said.
He added that he wanted to protest the Trump administration’s steps to roll back some environmental protection regulations.
After Trump supporters tore down activist artwork along the barriers of Lafayette Square following Justice Amy Coney Barret’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Sarah Robinson said she returned to BLM Plaza every day to paint new banners that now hang along the fence outside of Saint John’s Episcopal Church.
While she has no formal artistic background, the Maryland-native said she hopes her artwork can “wake up” Trump supporters to the reality of the president’s racially insensitive politics. Some of her newly made signs read “Jail Killer Cops” and “Democracy Rising.”
“A lot of these right-wing people can’t think for themselves,” Robinson said. “Their families [are] teaching them what they are, and they’re so secluded that they can’t think about anything else. And they grow up to be racist and to believe what their parents believe and it gets passed along.”
At the corner of 16th and I Street NW on Tuesday night, Rajah Reeves holds up an “Asian Massage Parlors Matter” sign, much to the amusement of onlookers who stop for a quick picture.
The Seattle-based comedian, who is on the final leg of his “Make America Laugh Again” tour, said he is not interested in politics but rather re-unifying the country through his humor.
“That’s why I pushed laughter because laughter,” Reeves said. “It’s a common trait that a lot of people do and that can bring people together, not spread them apart because of red and blue.”
While crowds danced and cheered following official reports that Biden had won Pennsylvania’s electoral votes needed to notch the presidency, Aladdin Mohamed stood silently underneath the shade of the Christian Science Reading Room with a sign reading “Trump is a loser.”
Mohamed said the election marked the end of a “darkness era,” adding that Biden is on track to reposition the United States as a credible global ally. He said he wants Biden to reform relationships with countries Trump has repeatedly criticized for failing to financially contribute to international organizations like NATO.
“We have become the laughing stock of the entire planet,” he said. “The White House has become a circus, but Joe Biden can fix that.”
Upon hearing the final results of the election, D.C. resident Ifey Anoliefo said she and her friends marched toward BLM Plaza to be part of a historical moment, adding that Saturday was particularly an important moment for Black women.
Biden’s running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, became the first female, Black woman and woman of South Asian descent to secure the position.
“In many years in the past, communities of color – specifically Black women – have always looked toward the future of this country and have made calculations that in the short term, may not have benefited them personally, but basically left the road for opportunity for us to work toward a more perfect union,” Anoliefo said. “I feel like all of our efforts have culminated to this day.”
She added that she hopes the country will move to ensure Black voters are not disenfranchised and that Americans will recognize how Black Americans have contributed to the economy. The Pew Research Center reported in October a slew of policies in each state that suppress Latino and Black voters.
Defying D.C. open-container laws, American University alumna Kristina Biyad poured herself a glass of champagne and danced to songs like “Celebrate” and “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” to commemorate Biden’s win just an hour after CNN called the race on Saturday.
“We can finally begin to restore all of the things that Donald Trump took from us,” Biyad said.
Biyad said she was particularly thrilled that Harris had made history as the first woman of color to be nominated to the nation’s second highest office, which she said was a “historical moment” for minority communities.