Obama wins, Boston rejoices

by Beacon Staff • November 5, 2008

After CNN called the presidential election for Barack Obama at 11 p.m., the wild rumpus began on Boylston Street as Emerson residence halls spewed forth throngs of students who marched down the street toward Copley Square.

Emerson students joined students from all over the city, and revelers around the country in a surge of celebration late Tuesday night and into the early hours of Wednesday morning after the historic victory by President-elect Barack Obama.

As they continued down the street, cars honked, people waved, the whole city seemed, for the moment, to be sharing in the historic occasion.

Junior Ben Grossman said he felt a vast range of emotions when Obama was announced the victor.

"I teared up," the marketing communications major said. "I called my mom, I called my brother, I called my grandmother. My grandmother is sitting at the kitchen table crying right now. She couldn't even talk. It's just such a beautiful moment for Americans, for people around the world, and for our future. I mean, this is it. This is it."

The Emerson crowd paused first in Copley Square where, egged on by honking cars and cabs on Boylston Street, students invaded the streets. A band of Boston Police Department officers arrived, herding the horde onto the sidewalk. In front of the Boston Public Library, the enormous assembly of students converged on the library steps. The Emerson group merged with others from Northeastern University, Boston University, Simmons College and Wentworth Institute of Technology and other area colleges.

The students piled onto the library steps, holding up cardboard Barack Obama cut-outs. The chanting was constant, the mood was contagious and older faces began to peep through the dozens of college students.

Two well-dressed people wandered out of the John Kerry rally in the nearby Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, to see for themselves what all the commotion was about. They said the cheering crowd inside the hotel celebrating Sen. John Kerry's victory couldn't compare.

Then Lucas Ellman, a sophomore at Berklee College of Music, arrived in Copley with his roommates, instruments at the ready. Ellman, on tenor saxophone, broke into a looping version of "When the Saints Come Marching In," a traditional gospel hymn. The scene was reminiscent of a jazz funeral without the corpse.

"We kind of decided when we were watching [the election results], when it was becoming more apparent it was going in Barack's favor, we wanted to share the love with more people," Ellman said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

The tenor saxophone performance major, who hails from Chicago, said the Obama victory meant more considering his familiarity with Grant Park, where Obama gave his televised acceptance speech.

"Everyone in Illinois is a big Barack supporter," Ellman said.

When the throng reached the Christian Science Center they poured into the mall, led by Ellman and a handful of drummers, the group overran the empty fountain, joyous expressions illuminated by the lights lining the walls.

Moments later, students waded into the reflecting pool, jumping, splashing and plunging into the cold, shallow water. Shouts and chants rose above the din of the blaring saxophone and drums. The crowd danced and embraced each another. A small group of students waded together toward the front of the pool, holding hands.

Outside the pool, a young black man rose above the crowd. "Obama '08! Obama '12!" he shouted, amid the cheering masses.

"USA. USA. USA," resounded for a few moments in the alcoves of the hulking center.

Soon after being ushered the students toward Massachusetts Avenue, the parade turned up Newbury Street, where the remaining students eventually dispersed. As they were herded along by police, the frenzy of the crowd slowed and groups of people quieted down, but everyone was still ecstatic. A man on the steps of a building on Huntington Avenue, raised a copy of the morning's Boston Globe bearing the headline "Historic victory," to assorted cheers.

"I'm so excited," said Ted Rogers, an Emerson sophomore digital post-production major. Rogers said he rode his bike from Allston to join the celebration after receiving a text message telling him to come to Copley.

"As long as everyone keeps it peaceful, the cops are behind us. Boston's behind us. America is behind us," Stevens said. "I'm so happy right now. I love America. My vote counted, and I'm excited."