Election Night: Joyous, Lawless, Pandemonium in the Streets

10:30 PM

“Oh, it’s going to be a landslide,” Mayor Manny Diaz declared to Riptide at the official Democratic results watch party at a ballroom in Parrot Jungle. At this point it wasn’t much of a newsflash: Pennsylvania had just been called for Obama, sparking chants of “Yes We Did” from partygoers drunk on impending victory and alcohol.

Roughly half an hour later, the giant projection screen flashed the definitive results, and as the place exploded, Riptide decided to hit the streets. Our plan: look for fireworks and listen for clusters of car horns. The simple plan brought us into the raucous hearts of Miami’s black neighborhoods. Almost instantly, pockets of crazy revelry had taken over whole streets.

At NW 54th St. and 2ng Ave., Haitians young and old forced a block to be closed off as they danced in the streets. Old women in sun dresses shook cowbells, and young teenagers on bikes raced recklessly around moving cars. An elderly white-bearded man hunched in the middle of the crawling traffic and, with loud grunts, thrusted a sign with a photo of Obama at the motorists inside, letting that do the talking for them. Caribbean music and rap clashed with the constant horn-jamming.

The scene at and NW 62nd St and 7th Ave, was wilder. Made foggy with firework smoke, that intersection hosted a chaotic four-way parade of people driving with doors flung open, and friends and strangers clinging on to hoods or riding on rooftops, all screaming nothing but “Obama!” Many of the drivers hung completely out of their car doors, controlling their steering wheels with a finger, and the pedals with a sneaker toe. In the thirty minutes that Riptide witnessed this acrobatic gridlock, we were amazed that there wasn’t an accident, although our own car almost got smashed into by one of these “ghost-ridden” SUVs. The driver never saw us, and the expression on his face, pointed skyward, indicated he was somewhere else, in ecstasy.

The most fantastic part about these scenes? The cops dispatched to stand around in futile hopes of maintaining order were caught smiling at the shenanigans. Even though—yep, that’s a kid setting off a bottle rocket as he sits on the trunk of a Buick barreling through a Wendy’s parking lot. Miami-Dade cops, white ones, smiling.

A strange, wonderful night.

-Gus Garcia-Roberts

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