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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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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.