This story has been updated.
The echo of horns blaring among cars parked beneath the highway overpass was met with more honking from passersby as San Antonio broke into a celebration shortly after Joe Biden was declared the victor in the 2020 presidential election.
What was planned days ago as a rally to demand a peaceful, ethical election evolved Saturday afternoon into a celebratory caravan through the streets of downtown.
Dozens of people marched on foot and holding Biden/Harris posters followed by about 50 cars decorated in support of the president-elect and the first woman vice president as well as causes such as Black Lives Matter, immigration reform, and defending the democratic process.
The event was sponsored by a consortium of grassroots civil rights groups including SA Stands, Texas Organizing Project (TOP), Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, San Antonio Alliance, San Antonio Democratic Socialists of America, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Lining up for the caravan, Rachel Garza and her sister Rose Garcia waited in the parking lot across from the downtown campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio in a car blanketed with campaign posters and Garza’s shirt reading, “no more kids in cages.”
“I’ve been involved since the beginning, so when there’s any kind of action to protect the rights of the individuals that are going to march, I was right there,” said Garcia, who said she worked on campaign phone banks and as a poll observer.
But in the hours leading up to the pro-Democracy rally, the winner of the 2020 presidential election was declared, and Garza knew for sure she wanted to participate in the event.
“If they’re going to go on, I want to be here to protect whoever is going to be marching and to join the movement just to say, this is what we expected the outcome to be and we are happy,” she said.
By around 3 p.m., the caravan had swelled from around 40 to 50 vehicles to stretch across more than two city blocks. Vehicles circled Commerce and Market streets, holding signs and flags out of windows, chanting, playing music, dancing on the roofs of their cars, and – of course – honking.
Crowds gathered along the sidewalks, celebrating outside windows of some businesses that had been boarded up out of concerns of civil unrest following the election results. At Travis Park, a group of around 30 people danced and waved signs as a DJ blasted dance music.
TOP organizer Jasmine Estrada said the group discussed on Friday night what they would do if the election was called before the event and it was decided they would adapt.
“We honestly believe that people elect the president, not the courts, and that’s our biggest thing,” Estrada said. “But right now we want to celebrate.”
She said they were expecting about 400 people for the caravan. The group had come prepared for opposition or protests against them, she said, but the event remained peaceful. As evening approached, the caravan had grown to hundreds of cars.
“Democracy is very very messy, and it looks like it needs constant nurturing, and it takes every one of us to be involved,” said Tom Dukes who attended the caravan event with his wife Sharon. “I was so excited about how high the turnout was nationwide and I hope the United States can continue in that direction.”
But, on Saturday, Dukes was mostly focused on the election results and enjoying the moment. “It’s been a long four years, and I think it’s time for a bit of celebration,” he said. “And then another round of hard work.”
Before the caravan began its journey through downtown streets, with traffic blocked by San Antonio Police Department officers, TOP organizers rallied the crowd. “This is what democracy looks like!” said Jessica Azua.
Senior Reporter Brendan Gibbons contributed to this story.