I left Bravo Bar at 1:30 in the morning, went home for my camera, then headed downtown.
The behemoth Trump Hotel glowed bright against the black sky. Orange and gold-hued lights, illuminating every open crevice, made the former Post Office Pavilion, once a welcoming and stately Romanesque Revival post office, look imposing and almost threatening. Four giant flags flew from the portico, waving steadily in the night air. The front doors yawned open like the gaping maw of a beast, ready to devour the District.
I turned west. Outside the Presidential Palace on Pennsylvania Avenue, the crowds gathered.
I saw them in the dark, shouting, screaming, speaking in tongues, or listless, swaying back and forth, wide-eyed, in shock, in terror. I saw them weeping, holding each other, holding signs, holding hands, holding onto the hope that this wasn’t really happening. I saw others, lighting cigars, shirtless and wearing the American flag as a cape, another with a “DON’T TREAD ON ME” flag tied to his lacrosse stick. I saw them jeering, laughing, yelling, “We did it!” and, “We grabbed her by the pussy, America!”
These were the most vocal, and emotionally invested, and their faces were all young. Whoever looked older than 30 was either behind a television camera, or in uniform. I wondered whether I would see anyone protesting, celebrating, or just attending who wasn’t in a Georgetown or GW hoodie, until I saw a man who looked to be over 40, bearing an inverted American flag. This is not an anti-American sentiment; an inverted flag is an international sign of distress.
The crowds pushed on, and men climbed the trees in front of the White House. Secret Service held their guns a little tighter. The argument between the lone Jill Stein supporter and the angry band of Democrats grew louder. A white couple stood in front of television cameras, smiling, one of them wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. A Latina woman with a bullhorn shouted to anyone that would listen.
Amid the screams, and crying, and jeering, and shoving, I could not think of anything more American than what I saw in front of the White House at 2 a.m. on election night. The days ahead will be ugly and difficult. There is no precedent for what has just happened, but that’s never stopped us before. We thrive in uncertain circumstances. Americans have put a man on the moon, cured polio, secured votes for women, and integrated schools, all within the past century. The presidential administration ahead of us might set us back, but it cannot completely undo the work we have done together.
We are all Americans. We all still have hope. And peaceful protests. There were more last night in cities across the country. There will be more tonight.