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Rhode Island residents gather at State House in response to Biden win

Many Black women show up to celebrate Harris, supporters of both presidential candidates react to election outcome

On one side of Gaspee Street early this afternoon, a large group of people danced, cheered and cried in celebration of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) victory in the presidential election. On the other, a smaller group protested incumbent President Donald Trump’s loss.

Wearing a mask, pearls and Converse sneakers in an ode to Vice President-elect Harris, Providence Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune MA’19 was among the crowd of mostly Black women celebrating Biden and Harris’ win Saturday morning. 

“We just made history,” LaFortune said. “For 200 years, Black women have been activists,” she stressed, citing Black women such as Harriet Tubman and Stacey Abrams, who has been credited with expanding and democratizing voting in Georgia.

Black women “don’t have the support we need,” LaFortune said. “And yet we continue to support the right candidates.”

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Providence residents gathered to celebrate the Biden-Harris win. Some wore Converse sneakers and pearls to honor Harris.[/caption] 

ShaLayla Simmons, a Providence resident, called the celebration a “victory lap,” as cars honked in support of the women in the background. She said some had planned to arrive at the State House even before the win was announced to celebrate the Black women in politics and because “we wanted to manifest it.”

Rhode Island saw record voter turnout this election, The Herald previously reported, which corresponded to high turnout nationwide. Across the country, more Americans voted in the 2020 election than ever before. 160 million people cast their ballots — many by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One Providence resident, Nicole Tingle, who attended the Saturday celebration, spent this election season working for the Voter Hotline, a collaboration between the United Way and the Secretary of State’s Office. Tingle told The Herald that it was “really great to inform people of their rights.”

For Lisa Antoine, a current Providence resident originally from Brooklyn, New York, this election was marked by many firsts. Not only was she excited to celebrate the first Black woman’s election to the White House, but the 2020 election also marked her first time ever voting. 

College Hill resident Leslie Long rode up to the celebration on her bike, wearing a helmet adorned with a Biden sticker. “I was just so overjoyed,” she said. “I said, I’ve got to be somewhere where there might be some people around.” 

Congresswoman Marcia Ranglin-Vassell (Providence District 5) also joined the congregation outside the State House. She said she was proud and joyful to see Harris — as a fellow Jamaican woman — on the ticket and now heading to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, representing women of color.

Eight days after burying her 92-year-old mother and still in the midst of grieving, Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell told The Herald, “I could not stay home today.”

What she found outside of the State House, she said, was a “beautiful tapestry of love.”

“I am hopeful we will put the needs of Black women who have delivered democracy over and over and over again, front and center,” under a new administration, Ranglin-Vassell said. The congresswoman added that she hopes this moment will bring people together and “close the door on the divisiveness.”

While many at the State House celebrated Biden’s victory, Trump supporters across the street protested the result. Standing on the opposite side of the street from Ranglin-Vassell, LaFortune and the others celebrating, the protestors chanted and held signs that read “#stop the steal.” 

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Trump supporters gathered in front of the State House to protest the election results.[/caption] 

Kelly Sutton, a medical doctor based in North Providence, said she worries that foreign election fraud could have played a part in Trump’s loss. She added that she thinks there is “something fishy afoot.”

Sutton said she has voted Democrat for 50 years, but that the party is no longer “the party of JFK, not the party of idealism,” and is instead “the party of destruction.”

Other protesters around her held signs in support of the Trump administration and used bullhorns to shout messages across the street.

The current president has already set litigation into motion to contest the results of the election. Trump has claimed that the large amount of mail-in ballots, and their delayed counting, are fraudulent. The president’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told reporters Nov. 7 that "Obviously (Trump is) not going to concede when at least 600,000 ballots are in question.”

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Nafis White dances in front of the R.I. State House.[/caption] 

Behind the protesting Trump supporters, artist Nafis White danced on the brick pathway leading up to the State House. She chose to stand behind the Trump supporters instead of on the grass with the rest of the revelers so that to passerbys, the image of her dancing in a flowing, yellow dress to the music in her headphones could be “an intervention,” off-setting the protest with “something positive.”  

“Today just felt incredibly celebratory,” White said. “And the body wanted to move.”

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