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Local activists celebrate victory

Celebrations tempered by calls for reforms at state and local levels

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Local activists celebrate victory
Dorchester resident Yaritza Rivera addresses protestors calling for a fair vote count in Copley Square last Wednesday evening. BANNER PHOTO

Last Saturday morning, activists gathered in Copley Square to demonstrate for environmental justice, housing protection and worker protections. But as word of the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris victory spread, the march took on a jubilant tone.

By the time the marchers reached Boston’s financial district, spontaneous celebrations were erupting across Boston. Throughout downtown and across the city, car horns blared and groups of people gathered in parks and squares, some waving American flags to celebrate the defeat of one of the most divisive political figures in recent U.S. history.

On Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, the bells of the First Church tolled continuously as a parade of cars drove through the business district while honking their horns. Cars paraded on Dorchester Avenue, through the South End and in other Boston neighborhoods. On Boylston Street by the Public Garden, a throng of revelers in the hundreds gathered spontaneously.

Boston Teachers Union Political Director Johnny McInnis marches in a victory celebration on Boylston Street. BANNER PHOTO

Boston Teachers Union Political Director Johnny McInnis marches in a victory celebration on Boylston Street. BANNER PHOTO

In Copley Square, where organizers with labor and community activist groups first assembled, speakers expressed relief, but said the Biden/Harris victory is not the end of the road.

“We can and should celebrate our victories, our little wins, our big wins,” said Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang. “And while I’m relieved that the election has been called for Joe Biden, I want to be very clear: Our work has just begun. We cannot be lulled into a false sense of security and safety and relief that everything will be OK, because it is not.”

Tang and other activists at the rally said they want to see the Legislature pass the Housing Stability Act, which would extend foreclosure protection, as well as pass police reform bills that have been stagnating since July and enact stronger immigrant protections and protections for essential workers.

Other groups that participated in the rally Saturday included the Sunrise Movement, New England United for Justice, the Brazilian Workers Center and the Mass Teachers Association.

“Today is about standing up for all the folks who expressed their will in this election,” SEIU 32BJ Executive Vice President Roxana Rivera told the Banner. “We want to uphold the basic principle of democracy: that voters pick their leaders.”

Rivera said the Boston demonstration was one of many supported by SEIU locals in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and other East Coast cities. The union represents service workers in hospitals and nursing homes, janitors, security guards and others who have been labeled essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Copley Square, Asian American Resource Center Executive Director Carolyn Chou said the demonstration was partly a celebration and partly a call to action.

“It’s important to take this moment to celebrate what’s happened and celebrate the organizing that made this possible,” she said. “We’re going to keep pushing for the policies that the communities in Massachusetts and across the nation need. People feel like Massachusetts is a deep blue state, but we know there’s so much work that remains to be done.”

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