Vigils and protests flared up across the country Wednesday evening as opponents of President-elect Donald Trump expressed dismay with the election results, underscoring the difficult task he faces in uniting a fractured country.
Despite Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama urging their backers to accept Trump’s victory and support his transition into power, thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets decrying his crude comments about women and attacks on immigrants.
Protests were reported in cities across the nation, including Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Austin, Seattle, Portland, Oakland, California, and elsewhere.
“I’m disappointed, shocked, a little panicked for my friends and family – for everything that will be unleashed, the hate that will be unleashed,” said Marion Hill, 22, who joined thousands who amassed outside of the Trump Tower in downtown Chicago.
Rainbow flags and signs bearing messages such as “Time to Revolt” waved above the crowd, as protesters filled Michigan Avenue, cheered on by drivers who honked their support. They then shut down Lake Shore Drive, the expressway along Lake Michigan.
Most of the major demonstrations took place in urban centers in blue states Clinton won Tuesday – highlighting the demographic divide that shaped the election results.
The former secretary of state’s narrow victory in the popular vote spurred demonstrators in New York to chant “She got more votes!” as thousands amassed in front of Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan. The crowd stretched several blocks down Fifth Avenue.
Earlier, the protesters had marched from Union Square to Trump’s building, chanting “Donald Trump, go away! Sexist, racist, anti-gay!”
At one point, demonstrators lit an American flag on fire. Later, amid a cacophony of loud chants, a glowing “Love Trumps Hate” banner was held aloft under the iconic Trump Tower sign. The singer Cher mingled in the crowd, doling out hugs.
In Washington, a crowd of hundreds of mostly young protesters gathered outside the White House for a candlelight vigil before marching to the new Trump International Hotel a few blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I’m trying to not be angry and trying to find more positive way to express my reactions. I don’t think anger will help,” said Kate Lasso, 57, who joined the crowd. But for the wife of a Guatemalan immigrant, who has relatives in the country without proper documentation, restraining emotion was difficult.
“They have kids,” she said. “They have been living here. What is going to happen to them?”
Hundreds also marched through Philadelphia, with about 700 people heading north through Center City and blocking intersections as they made their way up Broad Street, police said.
The protesters in these scattered cities – some of them the same places that have seen heated demonstrations sparked by fatal police shootings in recent years – could be seen in videos streaming across on cable news and social media, lit by flashing police lights and streetlights as they wound through metropolitan streets.
Many who turned out said they were fearful that Trump would follow through with his pledge to deport undocumented immigrants.
“I just felt waking up today that I was waking up to a whole new world, to a nightmare for my parents and people I care about and love,” said Tony, a 23-year-old line cook who declined to give his last name as he marched in Chicago, carrying his 6-year-old daughter on his shoulders.
“There’s so much heartache,” he said. “It’s a bad time to be a Muslim or an illegal citizen in this country.”
Hours earlier, Trump struck magnanimous note of reconciliation as he claimed victory shortly before 3 a.m.
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division,” he said. “We have to get together. To all Republicans, Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
Trump’s tone was echoed by Obama and Clinton, who told their supporters not to despair as Republicans rejoiced at the idea that they will control both the legislative and executive branches of government in two and-a-half months.
“I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it, too,” Clinton said. “This is painful, and it will be for a long time.”
Clinton, who was misty-eyed at times but composed throughout her remarks, said the long and bitter campaign against Trump showed that “our nation is more deeply divided that we thought.”
But she told her backers: “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”
Minutes later, Obama addressed reporters in the Rose Garden with Vice President Biden by his side, as more than a hundred White House staffers stood off to the side. Several of the aides were visibly emotional, with at least one crying before he began speaking.
“Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage,” Obama said, vowing to work to ensure a smooth transition for the president-elect.
But the displays of anger and grief on the streets Wednesday indicated the depth of the rupture in the country – and the distrust with which many Americans view Trump.
“He’s going to lead us to a very dark place for women,” said Samantha Sylverne, a 19-year-old student, who marched in Chicago carrying a sign scrawled on a cardboard box that read, “Amerikkka elected a rapist.”
“Along with how it affects our reproductive rights, the things Donald Trump spews about women shape how Americans think they can talk about women and other marginalized people,” she said.
In New York, where protesters walked in the streets, disrupting traffic, Brandon Ramos, 21, said the election result “feels like a nightmare.”
“I’m Latino,” he said. “My entire family and neighborhood are depressed. I still haven’t comprehended it.”
Tensions flared particularly high on college campuses. At American University in Washington, students burned American flags and some shouted “F- white America!”
In Austin, students at the University of Texas led a march for hours through the city Wednesday afternoon. As hundreds of protesters wove into traffic, bus drivers high-fived the students. Some in their vehicles got out and hugged them, tears streaming down their faces.
“Seeing this is everything,” said Jennifer Rowsey, 47, as the march passed by a coffee shop next to Austin City Hall where she is the human resource manager. “I felt so isolated,” she said. “I don’t feel so alone now.”
Austin City Council member Greg Casar, the son of Mexican immigrants and a community organizer, joined up with the protesters when they passed by an interview he was giving with local media.
“A lot of people are calling for healing,” he said. “I think we should reject that.”
He said that now is the time to support protesters, strikers and other forms of civil disobedience. Casar said if Trump comes to Austin, he will refuse to shake his hand. “If I have to go to jail,” for protesting, he said, “I’ll go to jail.”
The evening march in Washington converged in front of the Trump hotel, where one demonstrator pasted a sign of Trump’s face marked with the word “Hate” on the side of the building.
A few protesters attempted to rush through a crowd barrier in front of the hotel’s side entrance before security officials quickly intervened and pushed them back. Other protesters jeered against the escalation, drowning out the momentary disruption with chants of “When they go low, we go high.”
Some in the crowd distributed fliers with plans for another protest – on Inauguration Day.
Bailey Walker, a 20-year-old George Mason University student, found herself grappling with how she could have been so confident of a Clinton victory.
“I created an echo chamber within my social media and friend groups, and I wasn’t listening,” said Walker, who said she knew only a few Trump supporters from the college public speaking circuit.
“I need to do a better job of connecting with them and engaging,” she said. “Meeting in person would be a big step.”