Atlanta rally to push vote counting turns into Biden celebration

Biden supporters along W Ponce de Leon Ave in Decatur as elections results become more clear and celebrations of President-Elect Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris take place all over Atlanta on Saturday, Nov 7, 2020.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Biden supporters along W Ponce de Leon Ave in Decatur as elections results become more clear and celebrations of President-Elect Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris take place all over Atlanta on Saturday, Nov 7, 2020. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

An Atlanta rally intended to demand the counting of all votes in Georgia turned into a party Saturday, as people trickled in after the announcement before noon that Joe Biden had won the presidential election.

”Y’all are not hype enough for me,” an announcer said over a speaker from the sound stage just after noon, interrupting the music on a hill in Freedom Park. “We just got a new president!”

A cheer erupted. Sporadic, sustained honks sounded from nearby Moreland Avenue.

“Here I am, standing with my yoga mat amid all this celebration,” said Holly Kida, 28, who was wandering through the rally, looking for her yoga partners. They have been doing their workouts in the same spot atop the hill since June, when the woman who ran their studio closed it for the pandemic.

Kida, wearing burgundy stretch pants and a black tank top, had read the yoga leader’s Instagram message before heading to the park: “Come for the yoga, stay for the party.”

After President Donald Trump’s lead in Georgia’s vote count withered and he claimed victory was being stolen from him with fraudulent mail-in ballots, groups supporting Biden called the event for noon Saturday.

Trump initially led in Georgia but, as predicted by election watchers, his margin eroded when absentee ballots, many from Democratic-leaning areas, were added to the tally. Then, late in the week, Biden surpassed Trump and by Saturday held a fractional lead, with few uncounted ballots remaining.

Pennsylvania beat Georgia to the finish though. As the last votes were still being counted, The Associated Press and other media outlets called the Keystone State for Biden, which gave him enough apparent Electoral College votes to claim the presidency.

Trump has vowed legal action. Speaking from the White House Thursday, the president asserted he had “won” reelection — and “by a lot” in Georgia — and that mail-in voting was riddled with fraud, despite having voted that way himself. On Friday in Buckhead, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the party was looking into “six or seven” allegations of election irregularities in Georgia, but she gave no details.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and other GOP state leaders — Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge — said they were watching the “situation” but that they trusted fellow Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to conduct a legal election.

“Any allegations of intentional fraud or violations of election law must be taken seriously and investigated,” they said in a joint statement Friday. “We trust that our Secretary of State will ensure that the law is followed as written and that Georgia’s election result includes all legally-cast ballots — and only legally-cast ballots.”

Kemp said the state Republican Party was sending lawyers to eight counties — including Clayton, which put Biden in the lead — to “ensure that the process is fair and transparent.”

The New Georgia Project, along with groups such as the Democracy Defense Coalition and Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, organized the rally in Freedom Park.

Not only had Biden secured the White House, a rally leader announced, but Kamala Harris would be vice president:

”Our first woman vice president!”

Some wandered through the crowd on a mission, encouraging people to vote and explaining how to register.

”I’ve been working so hard for this,” said Liz Throop, a volunteer who was handing out wallet-sized cards with information about the runoff elections in Georgia. Both U.S. Senate seats here appeared headed for one. “People just don’t know how to register to vote. It’s so complicated in Georgia,” said Throop, who said she is with the group Indivisible.

Tiffanie Moore came to celebrate Biden’s win with her nieces, 4-year-old Daisy and 13-year-old Zina. They held up Biden-Harris flags and signs.

“We have a vice president elect that is a Black and South-Asian American woman,” she said. Similar to Harris, Moore is also a graduate of an HBCU, Florida A&M University

“It’s important to show my nieces that the glass ceiling is no longer there,” Moore said. “I feel humbled and joyous. As an African American woman, we are the backbone of this country and our work goes unnoticed. We are finally being heard and the world is watching."

Moore said that she had to have difficult conversations with her niece, Daisy, about Trump’s actions as president.

“I want her to know that we can have different and difficult conversations with one another with civility,” she said.

Maggie Bell is a volunteer coordinator for the New Georgia Project — as she describes it, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, civic engagement organization that focuses on communities of color being a part of the political process by encouraging voter registration. On Saturday at Freedom Park, members were passing out free T-shirts, hats and face masks with “Count Every Vote” and “Voters Decide” written across them.

“Of course, count every vote, we want everybody’s voice and everybody’s vote to be represented in this election as it deserves to,” Bell said. “This is the perfect space to get everyone who is engaged and excited to volunteer with us,” she said.

About an hour after the start of the rally, Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, interrupted the festival atmosphere, her voice blasting over the sound system.

”The original ambition was that we might not have a peaceful transfer of power,” she said. “But fortunately this is a time for celebration.”

She then reminded the crowd about the unfinished Senate elections. The two seats could shift the balance of power, she said. ”Control for the United States Senate literally runs through Georgia.”

By then, the sporadic honking on Moreland had turned into a nonstop stream.

AJC staffers Imani Dennis and Ada Wood contributed to this article.