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Fireworks, Champagne and dancing in the streets of L.A. as Biden and Harris win

WEST HOLLYWOOD
A Biden supporter sprays Champagne along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In the hills of Echo Park, people whooped and whistled from their homes, banged drums, honked their car horns and set off thundering fireworks.

In front of City Hall, they swigged from Champagne bottles.

On Hollywood Bouelvard, people took a knee.

In West Hollywood, they formed a spontaneous car parade that only grew as the news spread that Joe Biden would become the next president of the United States.

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2020 election: Celebrations break out across L.A. as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win.

It came as little surprise that in Los Angeles, a center of resistance to President Trump for the last four years, many people greeted Trump’s defeat with unbridled joy. Many celebrated another history-making turn: California Sen. Kamala Harris becoming the first woman, the first Black person and the first Asian American to win the vice presidency.

Saturday morning turned into a block party across the the city, a celebration more widespread — if less boisterous — than those that erupted after the Lakers and Dodgers won championships in recent weeks. In a city battered by the twin medical and economic crises posed by the coronavirus pandemic, many considered Biden’s victory a welcome respite from a grim year, a hopeful day that promised better times ahead.

A dance party erupted on a street corner in Los Feliz. YG and Nipsey Hussle’s “F— Donald Trump” blasted from one car, and outside Figaro Bistrot, patrons clapped as the national anthem played from someone’s phone.

A couple of blocks away, on a corner on Los Feliz Boulevard, a bagpiper played as a cowbell was rung nearby. A cardboard sign reading “It’s Over” was pinned to a tree.

Inside Bollywood Music and Gifts in Artesia, no one had to tell Simran Garcha, 47, about the election results. She knew that Biden’s win meant Harris would become the 49th vice president of the United States.

“We are excited to see a woman in the White House,” Garcha said. “We are very proud to see her as someone from India.”

An American citizen, Garcha didn’t vote for Trump in either election. She did like that he was a businessman and tried to give him a chance but had trouble getting past remarks he made about immigrants.

“We work hard,” she said.

When he lost, she said, it was a statement that Americans wanted change.

Garcha came to the U.S. in 2003. She opened up her small store in Little India, a stretch of Pioneer Boulevard lined with a sari shop, jewelry store and Indian restaurants.

She moved to the U.S. for more opportunities and freedom, because life wasn’t as strict for a woman. That’s why when she heard a woman was going to become vice president, she couldn’t think much but to repeat what she felt:

“I feel very proud.”

Kamala Harris will be the first female vice president, as well as the first Black and Asian American person to occupy that post.

About 100 people were celebrating at Sunset Junction in Silver Lake, waving American flags and holding up posters that read, “Vote Him Out” and “Prez Biden.” Drivers honked and grinned as they passed by. A man in a red sweatshirt ran into the intersection next to the Silver Lake Farmer’s Market and high-fived all the passengers of a silver sedan, where the driver was blasting “I’m Every Woman.”

Sunset Boulevard resembled a continuous, slow-moving victory parade, as motorists laid on their horns and passengers leaned out of car windows, waving flags and beating saucepans and tambourines.

“I didn’t breathe since Tuesday,” said Bernadette Colomine, taking a break from dancing on the side of the street. “But now,” she said with an audible exhale, “it’s all over.”

Colomine, 62, a voice-over actor, said she felt both “anger and elation” that a woman had been elected vice president. Anger, she said, that it has taken this long; elation that the tide has seemingly turned on what she described as the Republican Party’s “war on women.”

“It’s so overdue,” Colomine said, “and at the same time, it’s unbelievable it has finally happened.”

About noon, a crowd had gathered in a median along a stretch of Hollywood Boulevard where “ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER” had been painted after massive protests earlier in the year.

They danced and played drums and chanted slogans in a happy call and response as a stream of cars passed by, almost all of the drivers honking in support.

“Show me what America looks like!” shouted one man into a megaphone.

“This is what America looks like!” came the response from the crowd.

In a corner of the gathering, Dominique Hall, 30, of Crenshaw, and Joan Scheckel, 48, of Hollywood knelt on the ground in front of the iconic Dolby Theatre. They clasped hands in the air between them as Hall raised his other hand in a fist to the sky.

Both said they were there to mark a moment — and an opportunity.

“It’s about me using my voice to fight for change and against injustices,” Hall said. “Biden and Harris are a good start, but we still have a long way to go.”

Ron McBain danced on the side of Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, wearing a foam headpiece of orange locks teased up in pink curlers. A designer had fashioned the headpieces for the show “Project Runway,” and McBain, 40, snapped up 12 of them, which he and his friends bring out only on special occasions, he said: Halloween, trips to Palm Springs, and this morning, when the country learned Trump’s first term had ended in defeat.

For McBain, a music teacher, climate change was a key issue during the campaign, and he looks forward to a Biden administration “un-rolling back” environmental protections. He’s concerned that Trump still enjoys the support of a significant share of the country, and what the president might do before he leaves office, “but I’m not going to worry about that today,” he said, as a car drove past blasting Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next.” “I’m going to worry about that on Monday.”

Heather Fels pushed her 1-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son down Santa Monica Boulevard in a stroller, the boy gripping a cardboard sign that read, “You’re fired!”

For Fels, an OB-GYN, and her husband, Pablo Guzman, an anesthesiologist, Biden’s victory brought a sense of profound relief.

“For the first time in four years, I feel I can breathe,” Fels said.

Tell us where you were and what you did when Joe Biden won the 2020 election. We may feature your story in our coverage.

Scattered showers that fell across the region didn’t dampen people’s enthusiasm.

A break in the rain clouds allowed a small but boisterous group of 20 Black Lives Matter protesters-turned-partiers to celebrate the announcement of Biden’s victory and, just as importantly to them, Trump’s defeat, in South Pasadena.

Fahren James, a BLM organizer, wasn’t sure she would head to the streets because she’d been battling migraine headaches and fatigue.

“This is a good day — no — a great day,” James said. “I wasn’t going to come out here, but I had to acknowledge the work that’s been done to get to this point and to understand that this marks a new beginning for us.”

The same exultant mood was breaking out across the state.

With a bottle of Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice cream liqueur in one hand and a wine glass in the other, Liz Coleman stood on a busy Sacramento street corner Saturday morning, celebrating what she dubbed “the right choice.” Nearby, family and friends waved “Bye, Don” signs at passing cars, with their drivers honking appreciation.

“I’m so happy,” said Coleman, looking skyward as if her prayers had been answered. “So happy.”

Across the city, small celebrations like hers were popping up: convertibles with passengers waving Biden signs, mask-wearing friends gathering on sidewalks.

In San Francisco, people’s morning routines were broken by sounds of joy. Social media sites were awash with videos of the spontaneous eruption of sound throughout the city as the announcement was received and spread.

Hundreds later gathered at a workers’ unite rally at Harry Bridges Plaza along the Embarcadero.

Participants in the mostly masked and socially distanced crowd occasionally broke into spontaneous bouts of dancing and even hugs as a band played music and speakers urged the crowd to continue working to keep their voices heard.

“I’m so relieved,” said Miriam Walden, a 10th-grade teacher in the Albany public school system. “But we have a long struggle ahead.”

Winning election may prove to have been the easy part for a President Biden. Can he achieve an ambitious agenda and hold together the Democratic Party?

Times staff writers David Zahniser, Kevin Rector, Sarah Parvini, Lila Seidman, Andrea Castillo, Bettina Boxall, Allison Wisk, Colleen Shalby, Maya Lau, Laura Nelson, Julia Wick, Seema Mehta, Susanne Rust, Jaclyn Cosgrove, Kailyn Brown, Arit John, Thomas Curwen and Gale Holland contributed to this report.


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