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Philly shows the world how to throw a block party as votes continue to be counted

In an encore performance, Joe Biden supporters are getting a jump on celebrating as the vote count continues.

Philly Elmo and the Positive Movement drum line perform with “Count Every Vote” supporters outside of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Philly Elmo and the Positive Movement drum line perform with “Count Every Vote” supporters outside of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

No one had yet declared a winner in the historically contentious 2020 presidential election, and the outcome might not be resolved for weeks, but with better than 95% of the votes counted in pivotal Pennsylvania, supporters of Democratic nominee Joe Biden unofficially were celebrating Friday.

In an encore performance from Thursday night, as the world’s eyes turned to Philadelphia, hundreds of Biden partisans gathered at 12th and Arch Streets for a “Count Every Vote” block party that again had people dancing in the street.

“I think this is history in the making,” said Beth Hare, 61, of Bryn Mawr. “I feel very emotional and hopeful and optimistic."

Like other supporters, she was reacting to the latest vote counts that showed Biden was leading in Pennsylvania, a state that would give him more than enough electoral votes to claim victory.

» READ MORE: How does a Republican lead on election night and still lose Pennsylvania? It’s called the ‘blue shift.’

The exuberance likely received a lift from a procedural quirk — the order in which the ballots have been counted. Results released earlier had given President Donald Trump a substantial lead. However, to the immense relief of Biden supporters, it vanished with the tallies from later-counted mail ballots, which have favored Democrats who were more likely to vote by mail.

While the vote counting continued Friday, Biden supporters, confident that it really was over, weren’t waiting for the final score. The crowd grew to more than 500 people, with metal barriers and police officers on bicycles separating them from about 100 Trump supporters.

The pro-Biden crowd held signs reading “Trump must concede” and “the people have spoken;” the Trump group countered with chants: “Stop the steal!" and “count every legal vote.”

DJ Neeek Nyce pumped out the music as the crowd celebrated, dancing, cheering, burning sage, and waving signs. At one point, around 250 people danced to the Cha-Cha Slide. Caroline Thomas said she just had to dance “because my vote counted.”

» READ MORE: State of the race: Why Pa., Georgia and other states haven’t been called

A few hours earlier, clergy members from the POWER Interfaith group gathered for a prayer circle, some acknowledging the Trump supporters across the street who were chanting “stop the cheat! Joe got beat!”

“They’re yelling at us, but we’re connecting with heaven,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, POWER interim executive director. “I think we have the advantage.”

The Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler of Philadelphia’s historic Mother Bethel AME told of his Black ancestors who did not have the right to vote. He said he was born a year after the Voting Rights Act, becoming the first member of his immediate family born with the right to vote.

“My vote counts because they had no vote,” he said. "They had no voice. They were used, but God has kept us here for such a time as this. And now the children of our ancestors are speaking in Atlanta, in Detroit, in Las Vegas, in Phoenix, and in the birthplace of democracy, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

Renee Wilson, 49, a laid-off hotel worker and a “COVID survivor” from South Philadelphia, was choked up as she talked about how she was feeling.

“This is amazing,” Wilson said. “This is what we needed. People who talk about Philadelphia being a bad place: Look at the people here.”