On the day that former Vice President Joe Biden captured the presidency with a win in Pennsylvania, supporters of President Donald Trump held a “Stop the Steal” rally in Richmond and another group celebrated several blocks away that the will of the people had prevailed.
About 170 people turned out for the “Stop the Steal” rally outside the Washington Building, which is on the southeast corner of Capitol Square and houses the Virginia Department of Elections. State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, spoke to the crowd and to reporters afterward, calling for “an audit of our Virginia elections” and making the unsubstantiated claims that Democrats had stolen the election from Trump and the coronavirus “was an excuse to create a non-transparent process.”
Chase, who is running for governor, joined other Trump supporters in castigating what she called “the fake media.” She called Black Lives Matter a terrorist group and referred to Gov. Ralph Northam, as a “tyrant.”
Several blocks east in Shockoe Bottom, the results were met with joy by more than 80 people gathered for the “Voters Decided” rally and car parade. Speakers celebrated that voters for Biden had prevailed and vowed to continue demanding progress on issues including criminal justice reform, voting rights, immigrant rights and access to affordable care and safe, legal abortion.
Tram Nguyen, executive director of New Virginia Majority, said that the event was about celebrating a new direction for the country where people don’t have to be afraid.
“After a really hard year, it’s nice to come together and be able to celebrate, in particular,” she said. “It’s a joyful day.”
There was tension Saturday afternoon when a group of anti-Trump activists approached a larger gathering of Trump supporters on the edge of Capitol Square and one declared “F—- Donald Trump” through a megaphone.
For about an hour, protesters on opposing sides traded insults and heckled one another, but Capitol Police officers had surrounded the two sides and some officers were standing between those involved in the most heated exchanges. No one came to blows and the tension began to dissipate as people gradually started leaving.
In Henrico County, former Richmond City Council candidate Mike Dickinson held a Trump train of cars that coursed its way from the Henrico Courthouse and to the edge of the city and back in a circle. Dickinson said the mood of the event wasn’t changed as a result of the election results, which came out before it started.
Chase echoed many Trump supporters at the “Stop the Steal” rally with the claim that the election was being stolen. About midway through her speech, the news was spreading that Biden had won with a victory in Pennsylvania, but the crowd did not appear to react.
The Trump campaign has sought to stop vote-counting efforts in some states with legal actions this week, making unsubstantiated claims of widespread ballot fraud.
Collin Christovich, a Church Hill resident who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and held an American flag on a pole over his shoulder, said there was a lack of transparency in Virginia and nationwide.
“A loss fair and square is one thing,” said Christovich, 28. “But I don’t think that we can accept the result right now because there’s just too many question marks.”
At the New Virginia Majority event, Nguyen said any claim that the election was stolen is false.
“People tried very hard to suppress the vote, and despite hurdles, Americans across the country showed up and turned out and made their voices heard,” she said.
She said she’s been waiting for a Biden presidency, and was particularly excited about Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, who’s a woman of Black and South Asian descent. As an Asian woman herself, Nguyen said she felt “seen.”
Jessie Forman only had one word for the day: “win.”
“We can win if we do not sit still,” he said.