As a tense nation awaited the results of what is expected to be a close presidential election, Mayor Marty Walsh cautioned Boston residents Wednesday to remain patient and keep any subsequent protests peaceful.
“We have to respect the democratic process,” Walsh, a Democrat and political friend of former Vice President Joe Biden, told reporters at City Hall. “We have to respect the fact that people took time and care to vote yesterday, and we have to let the election workers do their jobs and count these votes all across election departments in this country.
“That message applies to every single person. No one should be calling to stop the count or talking about fraud … while [election] workers are trying to do their job,” Walsh added in an apparent rebuke of calls for action from President Donald Trump. “It’s the right of Americans and people everywhere to have their voices heard.”
As votes trickled in from key battleground states, some slanting towards a slight advantage for Biden, Trump’s campaign filed lawsuits in both Michigan and Pennsylvania, calling for a temporary halt in ballot counting until it receives “meaningful access” to counting locations to review ballots that have already been processed. The campaign also said it would seek a recount in Wisconsin, which the Associated Press called for Biden.
In Boston, two protests were scheduled Wednesday to demand the integrity of the election be maintained and that American democracy be protected.
One demonstration, “Protect the Results & Count Every Vote,” organized by Indivisible Massachusetts and Massachusetts Peace Action, was slated to kick off on Boston Common Wednesday afternoon and expected to draw 3,000 people.
Later in the evening, protesters — organized by the Sunrise Movement Boston and other groups — planned to march through the city, starting at 6 p.m. in Nubian Square to “defend democracy.” The event was announced Monday and set up ahead of the outcome of the election.
Although businesses around Boston and across the country boarded up their windows and doors in anticipation of civil unrest in the wake of Election Day, such upheaval did not materialize amid the slow churn of ballots on election night.
In the spring and summer, when demonstrations for racial justice unfolded in cities across the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, Boston saw largely peaceful protests, although violence broke out downtown on May 31 following one march.
Walsh maintained Wednesday that he is not worried about the potential for violence spurred by the election.
“I think that there will definitely be some demonstrations over the next couple of days. I’m not concerned about violence in the city,” Walsh said. “I think we’ve proven here in Boston that we can demonstrate peacefully, and let our voices be heard. I think that you know, many different people are talking about doing marches today all across America, which you can do, but we don’t have a final result yet in the election. So I would just ask people to do it peacefully.”
Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said authorities have plans in place should any events turn unruly — no matter if it’s Biden or Trump who clamps down a victory. Local police are working closely with state and federal counterparts and have backup officers in place, should they be necessary, he said.
“We know it’s a contentious election and that people will voice their opinions,” Gross said. “But when you voice your first amendment rights, do so with the voices of logic, not the ignorance of destruction.”
He noted that no issues were reported Tuesday.
“What we expect to see in the next couple of days while we get this count in is for people to do the same thing,” Gross said. “Let’s look out for each other. This nation began here, we should set the example and we sure did yesterday.”
With the uptick of coronavirus cases in Boston and Massachusetts at large in recent weeks, Walsh urged anyone planning to take to the streets to wear a mask and following health and safety protocols.
Walsh asked that any potential demonstrations held in the coming days happen early and conclude before the advisory hours take hold.
“We’re asking you: Do not be marching around the streets of Boston 11 o’clock at night,” he said. “It’s the wrong message to be sending to what we want to do. We still are in the middle of pandemic. Part of the reason why the election results aren’t in today is because of a pandemic.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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