Philadelphia, where ‘bad things happen,’ celebrates after delivering the final blow to Trump

Donald Trump attacked Philadelphia for months. It was votes from this city that ensured his loss, writes Richard Hall

Saturday 07 November 2020 20:20
A girl holds up a Biden/Harris sign at a celebration outside the Pennsylvania Convention Centre in Philadelphia
A girl holds up a Biden/Harris sign at a celebration outside the Pennsylvania Convention Centre in Philadelphia
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If any city was going to deliver the final blow, it was perhaps fitting that it was Philadelphia.

From the beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump had singled out the city of brotherly love as part of an effort to undermine the integrity of the election. “Bad things happen in Philadelphia” he infamously remarked, one of a series of false claims of vote rigging in the city.

He was right, in a way. In the end, it was votes from this city that finally ended his hopes of a second term and delivered victory to Pennsylvania native Joe Biden.

“Relief! Release! There are not enough adjectives for me to tell you how fabulous I feel,” said Lani Storm, a resident of the city who was among thousands celebrating in the streets after the race was called.

“My son who lives in Boston called me and said ‘I can’t believe it was my hometown that did it!”

Philadelphia, and the state of Pennsylvania, has had the eyes of the world on it for the entire week. When it became clear that the race between Mr Trump and Joe Biden would be closer than predicted, the state of Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral college votes became the tipping point state — the place which would decide who would become the next president.

But election officials here had warned weeks in advance that there would be an agonising wait for all the votes to be counted. More than three million people opted to vote by mail in this election to protect themselves against the coronavirus pandemic.

When it became clear that Democrat voters would use mail-in ballots by an overwhelmingly greater margin than Republicans, the Trump administration set about trying to make it harder for them to be used, and the president himself baselessly attacked voting by mail as vulnerable to fraud.

That set up a scenario whereby the president showed a significant lead in votes before the mail-in ballots — which take much longer to process — were counted.

While that painstaking process was ongoing in the Pennsylvania Convention Centre in downtown Philadelphia, Trump supporters gathered outside to echo the president’s claims about vote rigging and call for the counting of votes to stop. Hundreds more counter protesters also came down to demand that every vote be counted. 

At around 11.25am on Saturday, four days after election day, an update from inside the convention centre pushed Mr Biden’s lead past 30,000, and beyond the margin for an automatic recount. The Associated Press called the race for the former vice president soon afterwards. 

“There’s some hope coming. God, I prayed for this,” said Kelisha Carter, who came out to celebrate with her two daughters.

“It’s not even that I don’t like that man, I just don’t like his tactics,” she said of Donald Trump. “He just divides everybody. He brings the racists out of the closet. It’s scary for Black people, it’s scary for a lot of people. I have daughters and I have a husband that goes out every day and I want him to come home at night.”

Outside the convention centre, a crowd of hundreds danced and sang in the hours after results came in. One sign read: “Yo Donnie, Take the L.”

But weeks of attacks on the integrity of the election in Philadelphia have left their mark. Despite no evidence of any irregularities with the count in the city, Mr Trump dispatched his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani here to hold a press conference and outline the accusations while votes were still being counted.

Mr Giuliani alleged “rampant corruption” had occured in the city’s vote count, without providing any evidence.

He arrived in Philadelphia again several days later to make the same accusation, calling another press conference to present a number of poll workers who he said would testify that they were blocked from watching the vote count.

But just moments before his press conference on Saturday, as journalists were assembled to hear him talk, news filtered in that Joe Biden had won the election and would become the next president. A number of journalists began to leave and the celebrations of Biden supporters could be heard in the background as he spoke.  

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