About 300 demonstrators gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland on Wed., Nov. 4, 2020, a day after a closely contested national election, to demand every remaining vote be counted. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
People should decide their own leaders and every vote must be counted.
That was the resounding message at a rally in front of Oakland City Hall Wednesday afternoon, a day after a nail-biter of a presidential election that still remained too close to call.
The event, organized by Bay Resistance, a collective of local progressive activist groups, drew as many as 300 demonstrators alarmed by President Trump's false claims of victory and his efforts to block remaining mail-in votes from being counted in critical battleground states.
The group said it plans to organize "escalating actions" in the Bay Area and across the country if Trump is defeated by Joe Biden but refuses to concede power, or if bad actors interfere with the remaining vote count.
"We're feeling it. A lot of emotions, a lot of despair," said Geordee Mae Corpuz, an organizer with Californians for Justice. "But this is the moment we have to step up and protect our democracy, right?"
She said many of the young people she works with had just voted in their first election and now felt disillusioned.
"They're outraged," said Corpuz, who hopes Oakland will be a model for protesting without violence. "To have the president now actively suppress their vote, the count? They're inheriting a country that's messed up. They know that and they want to fix it."
The rally was among dozens of similar actions that took place Wednesday in cities around the country, including San Jose, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where about 100 people attended a rally downtown, calling for all votes to be counted and a peaceful transition of power.
Oakland organizers have called on local elected officials and community leaders to join a pledge to uphold democracy. Last week, activists painted a large street mural in downtown Oakland emblazoned with the message, "Choose Democracy, Stop a Coup." And over the weekend, dozens of protesters visited the homes of Twitter and Facebook executives demanding they prevent their platforms from being used to undermine democracy.
Abby Boggs Noura, an Oakland native who attended the rally, immediately thought back to the clashes between police and protesters following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May.
"It is the same issue," she said. "This election wasn't about different views on different policies, it was about racism and xenophobia and the ways that Trump has brought to the surface all the underpinnings of how our society is deeply rooted in racism."
Zach Norris, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, said he's disheartened it's been such a close election.
"Across the country, people are upset that someone who has basically shown himself to be a white supremacist could still come this close to winning," Norris said.
"And yet, you know, I take heart and stock in the fact that the majority of the American people voted to move Trump out of office," he said. "And now it's time to make sure that the will of the people is respected [and] every vote is counted."
A rally demanding a full count of every vote cast in the presidential election also drew more than 100 demonstrators in San Jose.
Darcie Green, a San Jose activist with Anti-Racist San Jose, which co-organized the rally, said she helped organize the event because she’s worried about voter suppression.
"We've already seen months of voter suppression happening," Green said. "Voter suppression is a form of racism. Voter suppression is rooted in racism. So if we're going to be committed to an anti-racist ... country, we have to stand up to voter suppression."
"None of what’s going on is particularly a surprise, but it’s nauseating," said Celeste Walker, who attended the rally with her 14-year-old son. "Hanging in this limbo is pretty awful, knowing that one party is actively working against counting every vote, trying to shut things down right now, it’s really disappointing, but not surprising."
KQED's Adhiti Bandlamudi contributed to this story.