One day after the election, nearly 300 frontline workers, faith members, and other Durham residents gathered downtown to voice their support for upholding a fair election, and protest against hate.
The rally occurred after Donald Trump declared himself the winner of the national election, well before votes were tallied in a handful of key states, including North Carolina.
State officials here have announced it will take until November 13 to finish counting all the votes, allowing official to process outstanding mail-in and provisional ballots.
Despite the seriousness of the cause, the mid-afternoon rally took on the trappings of an autumn festival. Giant puppets swayed to a battery of drums and a brass band mix, along with Latin-tinged rap coming from an organizer’s pickup truck. The cornucopia of music was interspersed with chants of resistance and freedom songs.
Most signs touted a simple message: “Count Every Vote.”
“Elections are an accounting of our spirit and our community,” said Ricky Rodriguez, who is a member of Poder NC Action, a statewide Latinx advocacy group. “We are here to protect every vote because every vote is a dream.”
Sara Fearrington, a server at Waffle House and a member of NC Raise Up/Fight for $15 and a Union, was one the event emcees. Fearrington, who voted for the first time in this election, said she cast her ballot knowing that a lot is at stake for essential workers like her in the midst of a pandemic.
“We came together today to do what?” she asked the attendees. “Protect our vote, and protect our democracy.”
The rally began at Corcoran Square and ended after a raucous, albeit peaceful, march to the Durham County Board of Elections. Similar events took place in Raleigh, Wilmington, Charlotte, and across the country, Durham organizers said.
Many of the city’s progressive organizations participated in the two-hour long rally, including Black Voters Matter, the Durham Association of Educators, Durham Beyond Policing, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the local chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Carolina Jews For Justice, and Southerners On New Ground.
“We will no longer be reactive; We will be proactive in this moment,” Danielle Brown, a spokesperson with Black Voters Matter, told the protesters. “We are tired and sick, and tired of being sick and tired. We will not walk away until every single vote is counted. Your vote matters.”
Community leaders who spoke at the rally pointed to the key issues that prompted record numbers of young people, people of color, and first time voters to cast their ballots. They talked about the fight for racial justice, raising the minimum wage, defense of immigrants’ rights, ending police brutality, equitable public education, climate justice, and the immediate issue of making sure their votes are counted.
Fearrington also thanked the county poll workers who are tasked with counting the remaining ballots.
“I thank you because you are essential,” she said. “I thank you for making sure every vote gets counted.”
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