Penn Students March To City Hall

This story was written by Emily Schultheis and Mara Wishingrad,
As Arizona Sen. John McCain conceded the election to President-elect Barack Obama on national television, Penn students marched en masse toward City Hall.At about 11 p.m., students ran into the streets and congregated between Harrison and Harnwell College Houses. They then gradually - and apparently spontaneously - started heading toward Center City.

Many students left so quickly that they didn't bring anything with them - some, like Engineering sophomore Andrew Jones, didn't even have shoes.College senior Blanchard Diavua claims to have started the rally."I was so excited I just went outside of Harnwell and started jumping," he said. "I never imagined this would happen."Jumanah Hassan, a College junior, said that after learning Obama had won the election, she "heard people screaming and wanted to be part of the fun.""I wanted to scream too," she said.The enthusiasm wasn't unexpected, as about 84 percent of voters in Philadelphia's 27th Ward, which includes Penn, voted for Obama.The noise of the crowd was enough to get students out of bed."I'm sick with a fever and I came out of bed for this," said Nursing junior Danielle Heitmann.As the group walked down the middle of Walnut Street in the rain, they exchanged high fives with people in passing cars, who were honking their horns in celebration."Looks like we're going to City Hall because I see it," said College senior Dan Ross.When City Hall came in sight, people started running."It was so exhilarating," said Nursing and Wharton sophomore Susanna Shuman.At City Hall, people were cheering - "Move, Bush, get out the way!" - praying and even dancing the electric slide.But for many Penn students, Obama's victory represents more than just another political contest."My parents were born in the Jim Crow south," said College junior Rhaisa Williams. "Now, a black man that looks like my father can be president."But not all students who marched downtown were fired up for Obama.Nursing and Wharton sophomore G.J. Melendez-Torres said he voted for McCain but decided to join his friends because he thinks "it's really awesome that Philadelphia is so engaged."Ross said that after the rallies following the Phillies' World Series victory last week, "we were primed for this."College junior David Gottlieb felt the same way."It was completely gratifying," he said, adding that, over the past few weeks, he has heard "Philadelphia cheering like it's never cheered before."Most of the crowd left City Hall at about 1 a.m.A separate, rowdier celebration began at Broad and Chestnut streets. People were selling "President Obama" T-shirts and waving Obama signs and American flags.That gathering was broken up around 2 a.m. by Philadelphia Police.Engineering junior Ariel Allon was impressed by all the enthusiasm."This is pretty awesome," he said. "Penn's never excited about anything."Sports editor David Gurian-Peck and copy editor Naomi Tarlow contributed reporting to this article.