A few hours after former Vice President Joe Biden was projected to win the 2020 presidential race Saturday, supporters of President Donald Trump marched to the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh, chanting “Stop the steal" to question the legitimacy of the election result.
Two blocks away at the Halifax Mall, a collective of North Carolina organizations, called Team Democracy, held a peaceful rally supporting “counting all the votes and respecting the results.”
Public reaction unfolded in Raleigh and across the country in the aftermath of the 2020 election, some celebrating Biden’s victory and others falsely calling it fraudulent.
'The media’s not to be trusted'
When the election was called in favor of Biden on Saturday, neither candidate had officially won North Carolina, though Trump has a lead of nearly 75,000 votes according to unofficial results as of Tuesday afternoon. The state will complete its vote count on Thursday.
Kristie Puckett-Williams, who works for the North Carolina ACLU, arrived at the corner of East Jones and North Person streets near the North Carolina Executive Mansion around sunrise on Saturday. It was the start of her shift for the Vigil for Freedom and Racial Justice.
Hosted by Decarcerate Now NC, the vigil began the day after the election advocating for Gov. Roy Cooper to address mass incarceration, particularly of Black people and people of color.
Later that morning, Puckett-Williams remembers hearing horns honking and some drivers by the vigil shouting racial slurs. She also noticed more police officers showing up downthe street.
It was only when Puckett-Williams checked her phone that she and others standing vigil outside the Executive Mansion realized that Biden had become the president-elect.
As a Black person, Puckett-Williams said, there wasn't much celebration.
"No matter who wins, it ain't going to be good for Black people, right," she said. "I, myself, wasn't overly excited. I think I was relieved that it was over."
But, that relief was short-lived.
Soon, a large group of Trump supporters had marched to the front of the Executive Mansion. Cars passing by the gathering at the Executive Mansion held signs that read “Stop dumping ballots for Joe” and “Reopen NC Communist Cooper,” criticizing re-elected Cooper’s handling of COVID-19.
Michele Morrow, a nurse from Cary, led some of the chants of the pro-Trump group. For about an hour, the group shouted phrases like “Four more years” and “Take back America.”
Due to the pandemic, many states, including North Carolina, changed their election procedures. Morrow said the votes were being manipulated this year due to the state not requiring photo ID and notarization of absentee ballots.
“It’s very concerning when you go to bed one night and the count is something,” she said. “And you wake up the next day and it’s completely flipped only in swing states.”
However, changes to North Carolina's election process were all court-approved. And vote totals on election night are always unofficial and subject to change; they don't get finalized until state canvasses, which can happen weeks later.
Trump supporters questioning the validity of the vote count comes as the president has not yet conceded. Huntersville teacher Amy Peacock, who attended the protest on Saturday, said she didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 but did this year because he has “done so much for the American people and for the world.”
“Biden only won according to the media,” Peacock said. “And the media’s not to be trusted.”
When Puckett-Williams heard the "Stop the steal" chants from Trump supporters, she said she wasn't surprised, but a question came to mind: what is a democracy?
"A democracy should want every single vote to be counted," she said. "And so, for them to accuse people of stealing simply by counting every vote, it was just indicative of where we are as a society right now."
'Defend our democracy'
Despite some Republicans' refusal to accept Biden as the lawful president-elect, the Team Democracy, a coalition of organizations in support of counting every vote, held a celebration in Raleigh, also on Saturday.
Attendees rejoiced and danced as they held signs that said "Count every vote" and "Our time to rise."
“I’m excited, and I’m proud because we all threw in,” Catalina Muñoz said through a translator. “Even people like me who do not have papers, we actually participated and did a lot of work to get us to this point.”
Muñoz is an organizer for Siembra NC, a Latinx organization defending immigrant rights. She volunteered to encourage Latinx voters to participate in this year’s election.
Siembra NC is one of 24 organizations that participated in the rally in support of the 2020 election results. The other organizations each have their own focuses such as racial justice, climate change and gun reform.
“I think the goal now is to be organizing as different groups for the different reasons that brought us out here,” Muñoz said. “And just to keep going to defend our democracy.”
Ieisha Franceis, a fast food worker and member of N.C. Raise Up, attended the Team Democracy rally on Saturday. N.C. Raise Up is a worker-led organization fighting for a $15 minimum wage and union rights.
"Our main focus was basically getting a lot of our low-wage workers and low-income families, getting them out to vote," she said. "And it worked."
An election night protest organized by a group called NC Building Our Revolution Now, began at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh about an hour after most state polls closed. Local business owners had already boarded up their buildings in anticipation of unrest in the aftermath of the election.
Protesters were dressed in all-black clothing and masks and carried signs. One sign read, “Whoever wins we lose.”
An hour after the protest began and the group marched into the streets surrounding the capitol building, Raleigh police officers announced that they were in violation of a North Carolina General Statute that states the public cannot impede traffic flow on highways and streets.
Raleigh police officers arrested six individuals, with charges including failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer.
One pamphlet handed out by a protester read, “A Biden victory is not the end of this struggle — it’s just the beginning of a new chapter.” Protesters dispersed after 10 p.m.
Though "elated" at the Biden victory, Franceis said, all the organizations at the rally knew they still had work to do.
"We all know that this fight continues," she said. "We're not done."
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