“Today Is About Defending Democracy”: People Take to the Streets to Stop Trump's Attempted Coup

Oakland protesters say now is an important time to defend the election—and resist Trump’s efforts to undermine the vote.

Brooke Anderson

Lara Kiswani, the executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, addresses the crowd. Brooke Anderson

Rough­ly 13 hours after Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump base­less­ly declared vic­to­ry in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial con­test and demand­ed that all vote count­ing stop, near­ly 1,000 activists with com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion Bay Resis­tance took to the streets of Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia on Wednes­day to ensure that every vote is count­ed. They are part of a nation­wide grass­roots effort to mobi­lize in defense of the demo­c­ra­t­ic process — and stop Trump from stag­ing a coup — in the days and weeks ahead. 

With mil­lions of votes left to be count­ed, Trump false­ly declared vic­to­ry at 2:28 a.m. east­ern time on Wednes­day and, through­out the day, repeat­ed his pre­vi­ous untrue claims that mail-in bal­lots are ille­git­i­mate — a move clear­ly aimed at pre­vent­ing the count­ing of mail-in bal­lots in key bat­tle­ground states. Those mail-in bal­lots are believed to over­whelm­ing­ly favor for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, who is cur­rent­ly ahead in both the pop­u­lar and elec­toral vote count.

“We never expected results last night. We’ve always been prepared to wait until every single vote is counted. Today is not about knowing who won. It’s about practicing patience and having each other’s backs no matter what happens.”

Those mobi­liz­ing in the streets of Oak­land insist that it is vital to launch a large, grass­roots effort to stop Trump’s attempt to steal an elec­tion, and that instead of rely­ing on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic estab­lish­ment, ordi­nary peo­ple must take the defense of democ­ra­cy into their own hands. Activists said they were cel­e­brat­ing unprece­dent­ed vot­er turnout, defend­ing the integri­ty of the demo­c­ra­t­ic process, and insist­ing that ded­i­cat­ed pub­lic ser­vants still dili­gent­ly count­ing votes be allowed to do their jobs.

Today we’re cel­e­brat­ing the mil­lions of peo­ple, espe­cial­ly from our immi­grant and refugee com­mu­ni­ties, that turned out to vote,” said Alv­ina Wong, one of the event orga­niz­ers. Wong is the Cam­paign and Orga­niz­ing Direc­tor of the Asian Pacif­ic Envi­ron­men­tal Net­work (APEN), an envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice orga­ni­za­tion, which talked to over 12,000 Asian and immi­grant vot­ers statewide in their own lan­guages in the lead up to the election.

We nev­er expect­ed results last night, Wong said. We’ve always been pre­pared to wait until every sin­gle vote is count­ed. Today is not about know­ing who won. It’s about prac­tic­ing patience and hav­ing each other’s backs no mat­ter what happens.”

Interfaith leaders Rev. Deborah Lee, Rev. Cherri Murphy, and Rev. Ranwa Hammany lead prayer and song to open today's protest. Brooke Anderson
Alvina Wong (green shirt) and other organizers with the Asian Pacific Environmental Networkbright pass out out sandwiches and food vouchers for people to go to chinatown to get more food Brooke Anderson

Ram­sés Teón-Nichols is the Vice Pres­i­dent of Pol­i­tics for Ser­vice Employ­ees Inter­na­tion­al Union (SEIU) Local 1021, which rep­re­sents 60,000 work­ers in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, many of which are front­line work­ers in the fight against Covid-19. His union endorsed the Joe Biden and Kamala Har­ris tick­et. He was at the protest Wednes­day march­ing with fel­low union members.

Nation­al­ly, front­line work­ers turned out in record num­bers for Biden. We need to make sure that their par­tic­i­pa­tion in democ­ra­cy and our elec­tions is upheld and hon­ored. We’re con­fi­dent that when every vote is count­ed that we should win,” said Teón-Nichols.

If the results of the elec­tion are not hon­ored, he says, We should put a lot of ideas on the table includ­ing a nation­al strike to defend the integri­ty of the elec­tion and to make sure work­ing peo­ple get the improve­ments we bad­ly need right now to defeat the pan­dem­ic and pro­tect peo­ple dur­ing hard times.”

Know­ing that more street protests may be nec­es­sary in the days and weeks ahead to defend the demo­c­ra­t­ic process, today’s action also fea­tured train­ing for com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers on non-vio­lent direct action, protest safe­ty, and first aid.

Wong said, We’re sure we’ll win and even in that win, there is much work to do to pro­tect peo­ple, whether that’s from state vio­lence or vig­i­lante vio­lence. That’s the goal of any self defense. You may not need to use it, but in prac­tic­ing you build more mus­cle so that if you do need to use it, you’re ready.”

David Solnit screen printing posters to hand out to participants. Brooke Anderson
Imam Ali Mukasa, Brother Sundiata Rashid, Rahsaan Miller, Antoine Dickens Jr., Saabir Lockett and Aliza Kazmi Brooke Anderson

The mood was fes­tive and well-orga­nized, com­plete with medics and col­or­ful signs. Ven­dors from Chi­na­town pro­vid­ed food to the social­ly-dis­tanced crowd and acupunc­tur­ists and oth­er heal­ers offered their ser­vices to stressed vot­ers. Faith lead­ers cre­at­ed a mul­ti-faith tent for peo­ple to gath­er, pray, and get trained in faith-root­ed organizing.

Saabir Lock­ett, the Direc­tor of the Faith Alliance for a Moral Econ­o­my (FAME), one of the event orga­niz­ers, led prayers at the action.

Today is about defend­ing democ­ra­cy. This is not about anx­i­ety and fear. This is not about being pushed into a cor­ner and being reac­tionary. This is about going on the offen­sive with love, light, and right­eous resis­tance,” said Lock­ett. Every­one — no mat­ter what creed, race or gen­der — has a right to have their vote count­ed. Folks lost their lives for our right to vote. Any dec­la­ra­tion of vic­to­ry with­out count­ing all votes is a slap in the face to democ­ra­cy and to the every­day hard­work­ing peo­ple who believe in the process.”

Lock­ette added that many faith lead­ers would be open­ing their church­es, mosques, and syn­a­gogues as spaces for resis­tance, focus­ing their wor­ship ser­vices on defend­ing democ­ra­cy, and lead­ing sol­i­dar­i­ty fasts if necessary.

Today’s action by Bay Resis­tance was part of sim­i­lar actions tak­ing place in San Fran­cis­co, San Jose, Los Ange­les and oth­er cities as part of the Pro­tect the Results net­work, a nation­wide coali­tion. Last week in Oak­land, activists paint­ed a mul­ti-block mur­al read­ing Choose democ­ra­cy, stop a coup,” while oth­er pro­tes­tors vis­it­ed the homes of exec­u­tives at Twit­ter and Face­book, demand­ing they not to allow their plat­forms to be used to under­mine the will of the voters.

Brooke Ander­son is an Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia-based orga­niz­er and pho­to­jour­nal­ist. She has spent 20 years build­ing move­ments for social, eco­nom­ic, racial and eco­log­i­cal jus­tice. She is a proud union mem­ber of the Pacif­ic Media Work­ers Guild, CWA 39521, AFL-CIO.

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