WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hundreds of people gathered around Lafayette Square just north of the White House on election night to anxiously await the results of the 2016 presidential election, which came down to the wire in a way surprising to many Americans.
As the night wore on and election results continued to come in, the crowds outside the White House — mostly millenials — became vocal and even angry. What began as a peaceful assembly grew increasingly agitated as the race tightened after midnight.
Several protesters climbed trees and pressed against the fence outside the White House chanting vulgar slogans, and deriding the possibility of a Donald Trump victory. Drugs and alcohol seemed to fuel their anger.
Earlier in the evening, a choir of people gathered to sing “America the Beautiful” while the crowd joined in with candle light. The Secret Service surrounded the White House to stand guard between the bystanders and the residence of the nation’s next president, but crowds were peaceful early on.
D.C. residents celebrated election night in bars and hotels with friends and colleagues in the heart of the nation’s capitol, taking in specials on food and drink in celebration of a new era in American politics.
Many people gathered in Lafayette Square were college students witnessing a more surprising election than expected.
“Regardless of who you support, there has been a level of apprehensiveness and giddiness, and it’s hard to describe, but it’s very tangible,” said Ian Elsenvach, a student at American University in D.C. “It’s definitely one of those moments where either way you could say it’s going down historically.”
Both Trump and Clinton supporters alike were shocked by the unanticipated rise of the Republican nominee.
“I am supporting Hillary right now and I am absolutely terrified,” said Duncan Cahalan, another American University student said. “The past month I was feeling a lot more confident than I am right now. I totally up to this point still think Trump was a joke.”
Trump supporter David Qiu was as surprised as his friends were with Trump’s comeback.
“Honestly, before this election I expected him to lose by a lot and I am really surprised by the results,” Qiu said. “I think a lot of the American people are tired of politicians in general. Trump might be a terrible decision but it’s a risk you have to take.”
With the possibility of Trump taking the White House in the air, many had growing fears about his actions in office.
Daniel Francois, a student from a university in California, said his biggest trepidation with Trump is the deportation of immigrants.
“I do not like Trump,” Francois said. “While I’m still confident that Hillary can clinch a victory, I am very concerned with how this country will go about it.”
George Washington University student Becca Russo spent the night anxiously refreshing her phone to stay current on polling results in the race to the White House.
“It’s a little scary,” Russo said. “I’m pretty on the fence either way, but it’s going to be interesting to see how this goes. I did end up voting for Hilary because I think she will do better things than Trump.”
The hundreds gathered near the White House joined millions across the country — and millions more around the globe — in anticipation of who will occupy the White House in January once Americans elect their next president.