As the nation awaits the results of the 2020 presidential election, clouds tinged with anticipation hovered over progressive groups’ first post-Election Day events.
Two rallies took place at Gainesville City Hall Wednesday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to combat President Donald Trump’s early claims of victory. The groups demanded fair elections and asked community members to organize and continue fighting for their rights.
The 4 p.m. event, called “Protect the Results,” was co-sponsored by Indivisible Gainesville and Blue Wave Coalition of Alachua County, Democratic-leaning organizations that work on educating and informing voters in the Gainesville area. The 7 p.m. event was organized by Gainesville Socialist Alternative, a group that believes a third party is needed to defeat the conservative right in the country.
Trump incorrectly declared victory early Wednesday morning, with his campaign filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, laying grounds to contest the outcome of the election.
The first event was organized by Liz Horne, an organizer with Blue Wave Alachua. She said 150 people responded to the event through its online listing; however, only 18 attended.
Horne attributed the low attendance to people feeling exhausted and the event’s short notice.
“I thought it was important to put up an event on the national map, partly to make sure people feel like they’re not alone,” Horne said.
Harvey Ward, a Gainesville commissioner for District 2, and Jeremiah Tattersall, an organizer with the North Central Florida Labor Council, were the only two that spoke. Four other speakers were expected but didn’t show up.
Tattersall said Democrats must strike and rally to prevent Trump from attacking the democratic process.
“I just want everything to be prepared, and to think about what they are willing to do to defend democracy in America,” he said.
Later Wednesday evening, about 35 people gathered at City Hall again for the “Stop Trump from Stealing the Election” event hosted by the Gainesville chapter of Socialist Alternative, a national organization that fights for the rights of working-class people. They gathered to discuss how dissatisfied they are with the current election on both sides.
Ranson Thomas, an organizer and member of the group, said the event was intended to begin organizing and garnering support for their cause. He said the group is hoping to do what they can, including mass protests, demonstrations and strikes, to try to “stop Donald Trump and Republicans from stealing the election.”
“We’re gonna have to get organized,” he said. “We’re gonna have to fight.”
The event called on people to demand universal health care, housing and education for all and an end to police brutality, regardless of the winner.
“Once we secured our democratic process, we must continue to work to secure actual democracy,” Thomas said. “We cannot give either politician a moment's peace.”
When Trump won the presidential election in 2016, UF English professor and UFF-UF treasurer Sean Trainor felt hopeless and alone. He then decided to join Socialist Alternative and now feels inspired by his peers fighting for a better world, he said.
He spoke at the event because he said he wants to ensure that every vote is counted. Trainor said he is very upset with the shortcomings of the Democratic party and local Gainesville leaders.
“We just need a political force that will actually advocate politics that will make a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “The Democrats just aren't fighting hard enough.”
A Biden win this election is not enough for Laurie Taylor, a UF librarian since 2007 and four-year member of Socialist Alternative. She said she attended the event because she does not see the things she wants offered by Republicans or Democrats like a Green New Deal and universal healthcare.
“I’ve just seen time and again the failures of U.S. politics in terms of actually helping people,” Taylor said.
Catherine Jean, 39, a Guerrilla Medics representative was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” mask. The organization provides first aid support and training to Gainesville community members and is working toward a more equitable health care system, she said.
Jean voted for Biden, but said that regardless of which candidate wins, she is concerned about the community’s safety once the presidential election results are announced, Jean said.
“I have no doubt that if Biden wins, there will be negative and violent reactions from Trump and Trump supporters,” Jean said. “And that is something we're concerned about when thinking about community safety.”
Sarah Younger, 61, showed up at the 7 p.m. event wearing a fat opera lady costume with a shield that read “Protect the results” to metaphorically remind people that the “opera” is not over until the fat lady sings, she said.
The saying invites people not to anticipate outcomes when the matter at stake is still going on. For Younger, in the presidential elections context, it means asking people to wait till all votes have been counted.
She said it is going to be on people to be vigilant and patient to demand transparency during this electoral process.
“I would like to believe that we can do this without spilling blood,” Younger said.
Ariana Aspuru, Corbin Bolies, Aurora Martinez and Rachel Slay contributed to this report.
A group of people are seen listening to speakers from the Blue Wave Coalition in Alachua County, who organized a Protect the Results rally held at the Alachua City Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (Emily Felts/Alligator Staff)