'We’ve been waiting for this moment for four years': St. Paulites react to presidential election

"St. Paul has a reputation for being quiet, but I think we have a lot to say"
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Melissa Schuler and Sunny Kase, who first met while demonstrating at the same intersection on Tuesday, hang out and celebrate Joe Biden's win Saturday. 

Melissa Schuler and Sunny Kase, who first met while demonstrating at the same intersection on Tuesday, hang out and celebrate Joe Biden's win Saturday. 

With rare 70-degree November warmth, car horns blared Saturday afternoon as around 30 people gathered on the corners of Fairview and Marshall avenues to spread the word of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

Demonstrators say this was the finale: people have gathered on these corners daily during rush hour to rally support for Biden and encourage people to vote.

“It started with one guy,” said Brooke Steigauf, a 23-year-old recent graduate of Concordia University in St. Paul. “He stands with a sign that just says ‘Liar’ with Trump’s face. He stands here, and he has no emotion on his face … I’ve been honking at this guy for like, the entire duration that he’s been here.”

It grew from there, she said, with consistent groups of people posted at the intersection for the last several weeks.

“This is where I felt empowered every day. Just knowing that on my drive home I’d have the opportunity to honk my ass off … was something to look forward to. I needed that,” she said.

So when the news broke, Steigauf knew where she wanted to go – as soon as she finished dancing in her home for about an hour, she said. She continued the dance party at the intersection, with Megan Thee Stallion playing through her headphones, which she said she chose in part because of the artist’s focus on women’s rights.

“St. Paul has a reputation for being quiet, but I think we have a lot to say – at least I hope,” she said.

She said she designed her sign to “present a message that would speak to both sides.”

On one side, she wrote the word “Unite.” The other side, with a technicolor border, a heart and sun symbols was the message: “Everyone does better when everyone does better.”

Brooke Steigauf with her sign in St. Paul. Photo by Jackie Renzetti / Bring Me The News

Brooke Steigauf with her sign in St. Paul. Photo by Jackie Renzetti / Bring Me The News

Brooke Steigauf and Ethan Hanson stood at the intersection celebrating Biden's win for hours Saturday afternoon.

Brooke Steigauf and Ethan Hanson stood at the intersection celebrating Biden's win for hours Saturday afternoon.

“I’m very happy about the outcome, to put it democratically,” she said, but wanted to keep her sign positive and neutral. “It’s the end of a chapter,” she added.

Ethan Hanson, an 18-year-old high school senior at Upper Mississippi Academy, said their teachers have been offering flexibility with deadlines and general support because of the stress that has accompanied this election.

“Besides offering support, we haven’t talked about it much,” Hanson said, adding that they did discuss the election process without a focus on Trump. “We have talked about how politicians sometimes will alter the truth,” they added.

Hanson has plans to celebrate with friends virtually because of the pandemic, but first decked out in a pink onesie and made a sign to join the crowd.

“It’s just exciting to know that my rights won’t be taken away from me,” Hanson said, adding that they are non-binary and omnisexual.

“Biden is definitely way more progressive, and I feel like he acknowledges rights for people who aren’t like, the standard, cis-het-normative people,” they said.

The majority of drivers cheered the demonstrators on, though there were a few outliers, Hanson said.

“There was one occasion when someone yelled, ‘baby haters’ or ‘baby killers’ at us. But that was the vast, vast minority. 99% of it's been positive celebration,” Hanson said, describing the experience as “exhilarating and uplifting.”

Naomi Mugarura with siblings Jordan and Jose Schinas in St. Paul the day the election was called for Joe Biden

Naomi Mugarura with siblings Jordan and Jose Schinas in St. Paul the day the election was called for Joe Biden

Naomi Mugarura, a 20-year-old student at the nearby University of St. Thomas, said she and her roommates simply responded to negativity with peace signs.

“We're just trying to celebrate love, honestly. It’s been a very hard few weeks,” she said, adding, “all of the honks make me super happy.”

She wore her older sister’s button from former president Barack Obama’s 2008 run, featuring Biden’s name as vice president.

“As a person of color, as a woman, I think it’s really important to celebrate this win because there were definitely some setbacks while Trump was president, and we just want to keep fighting,” she said. “I’m just very excited for the next four years, and hopefully, there’s more love in the United States.”

On an overpass above Interstate 94, a group of friends attached a giant sheet to the chain-link.

Spray-painted on it were the words: “Trump, you’re fired.”

A group of friends demonstrating Saturday afternoon over I-94 in St. Paul after president Donald Trump lost his seat to Joe Biden. 

A group of friends demonstrating Saturday afternoon over I-94 in St. Paul after president Donald Trump lost his seat to Joe Biden. 

Jeff Ochs pumps up drivers while Dan Ochs gives a thumbs up and Liz Ward waves the American flag. 

Jeff Ochs pumps up drivers while Dan Ochs gives a thumbs up and Liz Ward waves the American flag. 

The group stayed out for about three hours, receiving mostly honks – with a variety of hand gestures thrown in, said brothers Jeff Ochs, 38, and Dan Ochs, 35, of St. Paul.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for four years,” Jeff Ochs said. “We had been kind of talking about, hey, if the moment comes, we gotta be ready. We had brainstormed some ideas, but we went with simple and straightforward: the people are firing Trump.”

Dan Ochs added: “This is about defending our democracy. You can't just claim election fraud. You can't just steal this election … On top of that, don’t forget, the American people hired you, and we’re going to [fire you]. I mean, he’s a loser and a sucker,” Dan Ochs said, referencing comments Trump has allegedly made about those serving in the military.

Because of the pandemic, they knew their options for celebrating were limited.

“For us, this is just about – we’re in the middle of a pandemic, it's hard to connect with people. And just for a minute, you get to kind of be in the same mood, the same celebration, even though it's distanced,” he said.

"We’ve been saying the word ‘catharsis’ about 100 times," he added.

Liz Ward, 32, said she thinks the election is a starting point for progress for social justice and other issues Americans face.

“There are groups of people in the United States that don't have an equal footing -- people of color, women, LGBTQ+,” she said. “I'm just looking forward to an administration and a discourse as a nation that takes into account that these things are real, people do feel them. And I think we're moving in the right direction … I'm not saying that this election fixes that, that's far from it. But at least now I feel like we're in a place where we can have the conversations about it and start to make the progress we need to make." 

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