Updated: 11/9/20 – 6:30 P.M.
TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) – In front of a stage with two long banners reading “Protect. Democracy”, over one hundred people gathered early Saturday afternoon on the Ithaca Commons.
What was planned before the election to be a rally in support of a complete vote count and peaceful transition, turned into a celebration.
Barely two hours before the scheduled start time, the Associated Press reported former Vice President Joe Biden had won in Pennsylvania and is the president-elect.
Rally organizers Joanna Green said there’s much more to be done beyond ensuring a peaceful transition.
“It’s not all about protecting our democracy,” said Green. “We also need to do a whole lot of work in the coming years to make sure we are building a truly equitable and just democracy.”
Green described a list of changes her coalition continues to work. They include police and public safety reforms, universal healthcare, and eradicating white supremacy, especially what she called the “violently-tending militias that are popping up around the country.”
Green said the rally’s organizers are committed to non-violent protest and a peaceful transition of power in Washington, D.C.
“All the good things that the progressive left has been working for for decades. And these things are not radical,” Green said. “These things are as American as apple pie. These things are the values that all of us hold dear if we stop and remember what we really care about — our families, our communities, and a fair shot for everybody.”
Thirteen-year-old Ruby Zawel attended the rally with her parents. Zawel was already looking past the election. She’s a member of the Sunrise Movement and wants the government to do more to fight climate change. She supports the Green New Deal.
“The Green New Deal is a plan for healthcare for all and to eradicate environmental racism and to fight against climate change. And I’m part of the movement because I know that as a 13 year old my future depends on the Green New Deal.”
Zawel was not alone in speaking about the election’s possible environmental consequences.
Dr. Sandra Steingraber, who’s an anti-fracking, environmental justice activist and Ithaca College professor, also spoke. Steingraber told the crowd there is a connection between climate justice and what she described as increased suppression of Black, brown and indigenous voters.
“The people who are hurt first and worst by the climate crisis, who are hurt most by toxic exposures to oil and gas extraction are not at the political table. Turning over that table is the work of climate justice,” said Steingraber.
Green, Zawel and others expressed varying concern about how President Trump and his supporters will react to Biden’s win.
Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), an early and consistent supporter of the Trump, released a statement on Saturday afternoon stating that all votes should be “transparently counted.”
Reed’s statement ended, “However, out of respect and in deference to the moment, I extend my congratulations to President-elect Bid en [sic].”
Reed won re-election Tuesday. His district includes Ithaca.
Across the nation, vote counting continues. The counting of absentee ballots in New York began on Monday.**
*This story has been updated to more accurately reflect Biden’s position on the Green New Deal.
**This story has been updated to clarify the start of absentee ballot counting in New York.