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Hundreds protest across Boston, demand all votes get counted

Hundreds protest across Boston, demand all votes get counted
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Nubian Square for a series of speeches decrying the U.S. election system then marched to Copley Square Wednesday night. (Video by Caitlin Healy/Globe staff, Photo by Erin Clark/Globe staff)

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Wednesday across Boston to demand transparency and thoroughness in the hotly contested — and still unsettled — presidential election.

One rally, held on the Boston Common Wednesday afternoon, served as a direct rebuke to Republican President Trump’s false claims of victory Tuesday night before millions of battleground votes had been counted.

Hours later, demonstrators gathered at Nubian Square in Roxbury for a series of fiery speeches decrying the country’s election system and entrenched political power structures. The demonstrators marched to Copley Square later in the evening, carrying placards, and chanting slogans along the way.

“No matter how many times I smashed that refresh button last night, I did not feel refreshed, I did not feel relieved,” Blaze Travis, a 27-year-old Roxbury resident told the crowd. “I felt enraged.”

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Similar rallies took place across the country Wednesday, just one day after voting closed in the historic election.

Results in hotly contested states — including Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia — remain outstanding as election officials continue to count votes. Democratic challenger Joe Biden notched victories in Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday; Trump’s campaign said it would sue in the former and seek a recount in the latter. Neither Trump nor Biden has yet garnered the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency.

Azarias Rivera, of Dorchester, held a banner during the rally on the Boston Common.
Azarias Rivera, of Dorchester, held a banner during the rally on the Boston Common.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Following days of preparation and uncertainty over the potential for voting disruptions and unrest, law enforcement agencies across Massachusetts reported few incidents — and relative calm — Wednesday. A Boston police spokesman said late Wednesday he was not aware of any arrests or incidents stemming from the Wednesday night demonstration.

The afternoon rally in downtown Boston — part of a national effort called “Protect the Results,” which urged election officials to count all ballots — was peaceful and, at times, patriotic.

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The spread-out crowd at the Parkman Bandstand Wednesday afternoon included people waving small American flags and hoisting signs that read, “Don’t Let Democracy Die,” “Respect Voting Results,” and “Wait! Finish the Count.” As the event kicked off with a musical guest, the sun began setting behind the Public Garden, casting golden rays across the Common.

Susan Arnott of Cambridge biked over the river to attend. Standing at the edge of the grassy area surrounding the bandstand, she said she felt like she needed to put her “energy somewhere” as the results of the election remain in the balance.

“It’s something I can do to get my voice out there,” said Arnott, who voted for Biden. “Ballots need to be counted.”

Karen Louise Gonsalves, of Boston, held up a sign at the rally on the Boston Common.
Karen Louise Gonsalves, of Boston, held up a sign at the rally on the Boston Common. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

There was a clear political bent among attendees. “Biden is inspiring!” one cardboard sign proclaimed. When organizers asked the crowd, “What do we want?” an activist with the group “Refuse Fascism” shouted, “Revolution!”

“I was thinking if Trump wins, it’s a protest,” said Samantha Clyman, 18, who had driven in from Worcester. “And if Biden wins, it’s more of a celebration.”

But the organizers of the rally framed the event as a nonpartisan defense of voting rights.

“Counting the votes that have been legally cast by Americans across this country is not a partisan issue,” Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston NAACP, told reporters before the rally began. “This is not about Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party or whatever, or no party. This is about our American democracy.”

Sara Greene and her daughter Gigi, 13, walked from the Back Bay and stood on the lawn holding a large American flag stretched out between them.

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“This is everybody’s flag, it’s everybody’s country, and we are patriots,” said Greene, who voted for Biden. “I feel very strongly about democracy, and making this a country that’s just for everybody.”

Two women carried an American flag through the rally.
Two women carried an American flag through the rally. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Andrea Humez, 46 of Somerville, said she felt it was important to show up even though Massachusetts' electoral votes are a foregone conclusion.

“We support the national demands that every vote should be counted,” Humez said.

Police officers patrolled Downtown Crossing with helmets, face shields, and wooden batons, though they did not interact with protesters.

Some businesses on Newbury Street and in Downtown Crossing were boarded up over the weekend, preparing for potential unrest after the election. Governor Charlie Baker activated the National Guard on Monday, with up to 1,000 Guardsmen available to help “maintain public safety or protect opportunities to exercise First Amendment rights during large scale events,” Baker said.

US Senator Edward Markey, fresh off a Senate win in his signature sneakers, said the “whole revolution of democracy in the United States of America” started in the Boston Common.

 Organizers worked to assemble a sculpture called, "Elena The Essential" by artist Paul Leibow before the start the rally.
Organizers worked to assemble a sculpture called, "Elena The Essential" by artist Paul Leibow before the start the rally.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

“So we’re standing here today demanding that every vote be counted,” Markey told reporters. He said he feared that Trump was “trying to foment violent reactions to the counting of the vote,” but that he expected the rallies in Boston to be peaceful.

An unrelated rally Wednesday evening in Roxbury drew hundreds. The event — organized by the Freedom Fighters Coalition, Sunrise Movement Boston, and Boston Socialist Alternative — stressed the need to protect democracy and strengthen communities.

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Gustavo Barceloni, a 25-year-old socialist from Boston, stood beside a sign that read “Stop Trump’s Racist Voter Suppression.”

Barceloni said he had no faith in the American election system, and wanted the election to end with a peaceful transition of power. Still, he didn’t think Trump or Biden would deliver on matters important to him: Medicare-for-All and a defunding of police departments.

“We want democracy and that requires a whole new system,” he said.

He added, “Biden or Trump, we are stuck in the same place.”

Travis Andersen and Gal Tziperman-Lotan of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

Hundreds marched from Nubian Square Wednesday night.
Hundreds marched from Nubian Square Wednesday night.Erin Clark / Globe Staff

Zoe Greenberg can be reached at zoe.greenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @zoegberg. Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald. Vernal Coleman can be reached at vernal.coleman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @vernalcoleman.