Fireworks, car horns, cowbells: Celebrating the Biden-Harris win in Philly

Updated 5:30 p.m.

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Fireworks, beeping cars, cowbells and cheers could be heard across the region Saturday as the Associated Press called the presidential race in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.

Amid horns blaring and cheering in West Philadelphia, John Rogers, 38, of North Philadelphia, said he found out about Biden’s victory as soon as the announcement was made, “because I’ve been on air since I voted.”

“It’s like a sigh of relief. Really, a sigh of relief, because on numerous occasions lately Donald Trump showed his dislike for the minorities, you know, Blacks, Mexicans, nobody that really wasn’t white … He promoted violence, I never really experienced this much violence as in the last year and change … We’re due for a change.”

Dr. Peter Puthenveetil celebrates Biden's win in Philadelphia
Dr. Peter Puthenveetil celebrates Biden’s win in Philadelphia. (Max Marin/WHYY)

Rogers said he knew Philadelphia would push Biden and running mate Kamala Harris over the top. “I knew we were gonna come through. That’s what we do. That’s what we do, that’s all.”

“Count the vote” protests slated for Saturday blended into the celebrations already taking place in front of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where Philadelphia elections officials continue to process some 40,000 ballots. If the past few days have been any indication, there will be music and dancing throughout the day in Center City.

Bethany, 35, has lived in Philly for 13 years. The last time she saw the city like this? “When the Eagles won the Super Bowl.”

“We still have a lot of work ahead, and it just feels hopeful for the first time in a while,” Bethany said. “We still have a climate crisis, we have a pandemic, we have a housing crisis.”

Bethany noted that Philadelphia this week extended its moratorium on most evictions, but only through the end of the year.

“We have a lot of work ahead to make sure everyone in our society has what they need,” she said. “So I’m looking forward to getting to work.”

Briheem Douglas, vice president of Unite Here Philly Local 274, echoed Bethany’s sentiment, saying it’s important for people to know that “for us, this is not about Joe Biden.”

Demonstrators march through Center City Philadelphia to celebrate a Biden win.
Demonstrators march through Center City Philadelphia to celebrate a Biden win. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The 36-year-old East Germantown resident said he’s happy Biden won, but stressed the importance of holding politicians accountable. “We must hold him and Kamala Harris to their word,” he said.

Douglas spoke to concerns over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 236,000 Americans, including Douglas’ niece.

Dr. Peter Puthenveetil, a 32-year-old emergency room doctor at Jefferson, made a “THANK YOUSE” sign and came out to celebrate before his shift. He hasn’t seen his family in 10 months because of the pandemic. He’s hopeful that the Biden-Harris administration will “listen to the doctors” and get it under control.

Biden’s victory, propelled by Black voter turnout in cities like Philly, came the same day Walter Wallace Jr. was laid to rest after police fatally shot him in front of his mother while he experienced a mental crisis on Oct. 26.

Yet even amid the sadness of the funeral service for Wallace in North Philadelphia, the moment of Biden’s victory was noted.

A moment of silence for Wallace was offered by a group celebrating on the grass near Independence Hall.

Retiree Veronica Norris, 65, phone-banked for Biden through her union. “I’m so proud to be here with my cane and my good working legs to celebrate all the hard work,” said Norris. “Health care, Medicare, Social Security, all that was on the ballot.”

“I’m here with a passion to celebrate with so many diverse folks here. If you look around, it’s just so diverse. United, love, we’ve been divided too long. And I’m just so emotional talking about it now to you,” Norris said.

A theme began to emerge. This isn’t 2008, speakers and others said — hoping for change isn’t enough. For Norris, placing Biden in the White House means she can focus on local issues. “We can focus on murders in the city of Philadelphia, police reform.”

Veronica Norris celebrates in Philadelphia following Biden's win.
Veronica Norris celebrates in Philadelphia following Biden’s win. (Ximena Conde/WHYY)

A “Stop the War on Black and Brown People” protest had previously been scheduled for 3 p.m. in front of City Hall.

“No matter who wins the election, we must keep the struggle in the streets and demand accountability!” the Facebook page for the event read. The day after Election Day, Philadelphia officials released police body camera footage showing the moments leading to Wallace’s shooting death.

Organizations including the Party for Socialism and Liberation – Philly, Philly Boricuas, and Workers World Party – Philly maintain that no Democratic Party politician can end police brutality, food insecurity, or a lack of health care.

Walter Barrett sits on a park bench in Philadelphia after Biden's win.
Walter Barrett sits on a park bench in Philadelphia after Biden’s win. (Ximena Conde/WHYY)

“There are a lot of streets in Philadelphia that need to be revitalized,” said Upper Darby resident Walter Barrett, 58, who went door to door canvassing during the pandemic to boost turnout. “We just want to get to a point where we can not just look out for the 1% but the marginalized.”

At a food-distribution site at Ridge Avenue and Main Street, the border of East Falls and Manayunk, Chimere Singleton of Philadelphia said she almost cried when she heard the news, “can’t get any better than that, 2020!”

Why did she almost cry? “That’s who I voted for, that’s who won, and I think that he’ll bring things around for the better.“

The issue she felt strongly about when voting? “To be honest, the racism. Just the blatant racism.”

Miss Vee and Eugene Spain, of Philadelphia.
Miss Vee and Eugene Spain, of Philadelphia. (Jennifer Lynn/WHYY)

Eugene Spain, of Philadelphia, said, “I am glad that we have the first female Black vice president. And I know Joe Biden is happy because he’s been trying to get into that office, so good luck.”

The big issue that pushed him to vote this year? “At first I was angry because of what was going on, and I wasn’t going to vote, but I decided whether I voted or not, it wouldn’t hurt to just keep on voting,” Spain said. He was angry “just in general what’s going on with the riots and the borders, and all of the negative crap that’s going on that no one wants to come up with a proper solution to it.”

Miss Vee of Philadelphia said she voted for Biden “because he is more political, he’s more knowledgeable, and he’s been where he is at before, so he knows how to run the country – yes.”

She feels good about his victory. “The process was long, I guess because of the virus, but I’m so glad that he’s there.”

People dance as they celebrate outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center
People dance as they celebrate outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia, after Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become 46th president of the United States. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Outside City Hall, the dance party that began a few days ago seemed to still be going strong.

And by about 3 p.m. thousands were marching up North Broad Street, past the convention center, where ballots have been counted since Tuesday.

Corinne and Alex Beverly in Philly
Corinne (left) and Alex Beverly in Philadelphia. (Ximena Conde/WHYY)

Siblings Corinne and Alex Beverly came from East Falls to Center City about mid-afternoon. They started at the convention center and danced all the way to City Hall.

Corrine was most excited about Harris as vice president and what the Biden administration could mean for Black and LBGTQ+ communities.

A scene near the convention center seemed to offer up a look at this election season in a nutshell. One was side was a Trump faction chanting, “Supreme Court! Supreme Court!” On the other side, Biden supporters were chanting, “USA!”

So the crowd followed the music, and Elmo.

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