As President Donald Trump’s campaign laid the ground for contesting election results with lawsuits filed Wednesday in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, about 1,000 people marched through downtown Chicago behind a 20-foot banner emblazoned with the American flag and a simple message: “Count every vote.”
“We want to know what the result of the election is,” said Erica Bland-Durosinmi, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, one of two dozen groups that backed the rally. “Nothing should stand in the way of that. We want a free and fair election. That is something that is guaranteed to us as citizens of this country.”
The march began with an evening rally in Daley Plaza shortly after news outlets called the Wisconsin and Michigan contests for Joe Biden. Crowd members danced and sang along to James Brown’s celebratory anthem, “Living in America.”
But there was also anxiety after a 24-hour rollercoaster of initial results due to the election’s unprecedented number of early and mail-in ballots.
The candidates themselves have given drastically different messages since the polls closed. A confident Biden has urged patience as the process plays out, while a defiant Trump has been quick to declare victory.
Bland voiced fears that discord around the election results could lead to a coup.
“It’s no secret that our country is deeply divided along racial lines and there is some worry and concern across this country about what might be possible,” Bland said.
“But I do know that the will of the people is stronger and that there are more people who believe in justice and free and fair elections,” Bland said. “We will be out in the streets every day, doing everything that we can to make sure that democracy is observed and exercised in this country”
The rally included speakers pushing for Chicago police accountability, immigrant rights and local budget reforms. The co-sponsors ranged from Black Lives Matter Chicago to unions, neighborhood groups and senior-rights organizations.
A similar “Protect the Results” rally to demand that all votes be counted had been planned in west suburban Glen Ellyn, but was cancelled.
At the local Jewel Osco, people from all political stripes said not knowing the outcome of the historic election felt “stressful,” “anxious” and “tough.”
“There’s some anxiety — ongoing, unrelenting,” said resident Adam Collins. “I heard somebody say that it was like you’re waiting to get test results back from a doctor — there’s just an uneasy feeling.”
He said he got some “light at the end of the tunnel” today as states continued to be called for Biden.
College student and Trump voter Emily Gates said it was “pretty unsettling” not to know who won.
“It’s my first time voting in a presidential election, so I’m like, ‘OK, how do we not know yet?’ So definitely unsettling.”
Michael Lansu is a digital editor at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @mikelansu.
Linda Lutton contributed reporting. Follow her @lindalutton.