A symphony of loud music and cheers filled Mission Plaza Sunday afternoon as community members celebrated President-elect Joe Biden’s victory for the second day in San Luis Obispo.
Ivan Chavez, a 23-year-old San Luis Obispo resident, ran around the plaza sporting a t-shirt embellished with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s face and a Mexico flag tied around his neck. Chavez also held a newspaper that read “President impeached,” an American flag and an LGBTQIA+ flag.
“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for four years,” Chavez said. “I feel confident, I feel pride, I feel joy, I feel relief now — that I can breathe.”
President-elect Biden’s commitment to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that delays the deportation of those who arrived in the U.S. as minors, is one of many reasons to celebrate, Chavez said. This contrasts with President Donald Trump’s attempts to end DACA during his term.
“Trump tried to take away DACA which is something that Joe Biden will protect now,” Chavez said. “[Biden] will get us back in the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Iran Nuclear Deal and most importantly, [Biden will] unite the people, not divide them.”
Chavez said he is also excited to see Kamala Harris sworn in as the first female and first female of color vice president.
“A step forward to equal rights for women and for all of us,” Chavez said.
Overall, Chavez said it feels amazing to dance with his flags.
“This victory means joy and to finally come out of the shadow and to not be afraid of who I am and to show my pride in everything I do,” he said.
Cal Poly English senior Hannah Perinrich said that she also feels relieved Biden won, but she said there is more work to be done. In San Luis Obispo, Perinrich said that means community members and Black Lives Matter Community Action (BLMCA) must work together to create a better community especially for people of color.
She added that Biden’s win also means that students can do a lot more for America: protest, sign petitions and push for change.
“It’s like a better outlook for us that we can create a world that we want to live in,” Perinrich said. “I’m excited for where this is going. We have a lot more work to do, but this is a pretty good start.”
Heather Gray, president of the Democrats of San Luis Obispo Club, danced around holding a sign that read “Madam Vice President” in the air and wore a collar decorated with button pins, including ones that read “Medicare for all,” “Women’s rights are human rights” and “I will not be silent.”
Gray said Biden’s win symbolizes what happens when people work together to “take back” the country. She has worked in local politics since she moved to San Luis Obispo four years ago when Trump took office.
“For the first time, I felt this feeling that I hadn’t recognized what it was — I haven’t felt hope in four years,” Gray said. “I’ve seen amazing people in this community show up, and I just hope we continue to show up. We can’t just think that our work is done at this point.”
Gray said this means that people must continue to engage with both local and national government and that it is not enough to show up at the ballot box.
“We’ve had generations of people who have done hard work to get us where we are, but that progress is going to be limited if we don’t keep showing up,” Gray said. “We’ve been really complacent in a lot of ways, and that’s how Trump got into office the first time. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen again. We can’t let people like that come to power.”
It is also important for people to work together to demand change from elected officials, Gray said.
“This is a country that is supposed to be for everyone,” Gray said. “That’s what our country was founded on: life and liberty for all, and it needs to be for all. If it’s only for the select few, then we’re not the country that we think we are.”
San Luis Obispo resident Aja Milne joined the celebration with her three young children. Milne said it is a lot easier to be a parent in the wake of Biden’s win, and she said she wanted to share that with them.
“Knowing that [Biden] is going to govern for all of us — the diversity of my family, everyone else’s family, welcoming people, standing up for what this country is really about — just coming back to that is important,” Milne said.
Milne also noted the record-high voter turnout this election, and she said it is important to get youth engaged with politics early on.
“The turnout was incredible this time, and it’s only going to continue to be incredible if we get our children involved now and they can see that it does make a difference and they participate — even if they can’t vote yet,” Milne said.
Stephen Vines, president of the San Luis Obispo branch of NAACP, wore an “Impeach” pin on his shirt collar and an NAACP hat as he danced alongside other local activists.
Vines said that Biden’s win simply means Trump’s loss.
“It just means that now we don’t have to think about Donald Trump. That’s all,” Vines said.
However, Vines said that Biden’s election means Americans are headed towards a better future.
“They made the first good step,” Vines said. “I’ve got 100% confidence in America.”
Moving forward, Vines also said it is essential that people get involved, maintain civic engagement and join organizations like NAACP.
“You can’t do nothing by yourself. When you get a whole bunch of people together, you can do a whole bunch with a little,” Vines said.
The celebration ended with a speech from local activist Michelle Martinez. Martinez said that it is crucial to remember that Americans must also continue to fight against systemic racism, and she said the country “settled” for Biden and Harris.
“The lesser of two evils does not equal justice,” Martinez said. “We must continue to fight against the systemic racism that this country is built on and that [Trump] encouraged in his followers. Racism is not gone because [Trump] is gone.”
Martinez said that Americans need to continue to advocate for change.
“Even as we all celebrate the results of this election, we must keep organizing, fighting for justice and taking action in our communities,” Martinez said. “Retreating back for comfort because [Trump] is gone is retreating back into white supremacy. The fight has only begun.”