The deafening scenes outside the Pennsylvania Convention Centre yesterday morning would have been almost entertaining were they not so serious.
The furious chanting and angry placard waving simply encapsulated the hate and division creeping across the United States as the presidential election, amazingly, still lies in the balance.
And this spot, where the vote counting continues, is the very epicentre of where America’s fate over the next few days may lie.
With Pennsylvania’s result in this increasingly sour contest still to be announced, the eyes of the whole country, nay the world, were now firmly fixed upon this usually quiet, non-descript Philadelphia street.
Supporters of President Donald Trump demonstrate outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center where votes are being counted
Here Democrat supporters sang anti-Trump chants, whipped into a noisy frenzy by fierce drum beats and an enthusiastic MC whose talent for lyrical wit deserved a wider audience.
Over by the entrance to the centre stood a gang of Donald Trump’s colourful disciples in equally strong voice.
Only the swarm of cops on the ground, backed up by a law-enforcement helicopter hovering menacingly overhead, prevented the scene escalating into a giant street scuffle.
Suddenly, a Trump supporter broke through the hastily arranged police cordon dividing the sets of supporters and began ranting at a young female.
‘Satanist!’ he screamed, his face hidden behind an intimidating skull-emblazoned mask. ‘You’re disgusting. You disgust me.’ The girl, a local called Liah (almost no Democrat I have met this week will reveal their surname for fear of online intimidation) returned fire in spades.
Fascist!’ She yelled. ‘I do not want fascism in my country. Particularly in my city.’ This confrontational scene felt almost entirely representative of America as a whole right now.
Lehigh County workers count ballots as vote counting in the general election continued on Thursday, November 6
As this brutal election slips further from Donald Trump’s grasp, the President and his supporters become ever more determined to show it has been stolen from them.
Meanwhile, Democrats accuse him of behaving like a crazed dictator refusing to relinquish power.
Here at the Convention Center is where thousands of postal votes, the majority of which are thought to be in favour of the Democrats, are still being counted. And it could still go on for several days yet.
Thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling, Philadelphia – the state of Pennsylvania’s largest city – must count all mail ballots that arrive before 8pm tonight.
But with Trump marginally ahead in Pennsylvania as things stand, his team are determined to shut down counting by claiming Philadelphia’s voting authorities are committing electoral fraud.
So far they haven’t produced a jot of evidence, leading many to assume this was a planned ruse. Even before Election Day, the President mused that ‘funny things happen in Philadelphia’.
Almost on cue, Trump’s rake-thin campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, arrived on the street. In his hand was a court order allowing him to inspect the counting process. ‘This is a chance to show what’s going on inside this building,’ he announced, brandishing his order triumphantly.
Democrat supporters jeered his every word until he disappeared inside the centre. There is a certain irony that Lewandowski and his party are accusing Philadelphia, of all places, of election tampering.
This friendly and delightful city happens to be the cradle of American democracy. Just blocks away from where counting is taking place is Pennsylvania State House, where the US constitution was signed in 1787.
Democrats I met yesterday seemed particularly proud of Philly’s history.
One young man, Jeff, worked as a city volunteer on Election Day monitoring a polling station. He told me: ‘That’s the reason I am here. It’s so important to me that everyone who took the trouble to vote knows it was worth it.’
The furious chanting and angry placard waving simply encapsulated the hate and division creeping across the United States as the presidential election, amazingly, still lies in the balance. Pictured, a Count Every Vote dance party at the Philadelphia Convention Center
Another local, Elena, said: ‘I just want every vote to count. The President is being totally irrational.’
As an indication of the fury, and possibly desperation, among Trump supporters, many who turned up had travelled huge distances to protest.
Robert Matheson had made the journey all the way from Florida. ‘I just want free and fair elections, man,’ he told me.
‘What’s going on inside there is totally corrupt.’ As the crowds continued their noisy tit for tat in the late morning sun, Lewandowski emerged from the centre, this time clutching a megaphone.
He is not, incidentally, a man you would wish to encounter in a dark alley. Even his buzz-cut hair drips with aggression.
‘Democracy dies in darkness,’ he announced. ‘They don’t want observers in there to know what’s going on.’ Republicans, he added provocatively, needed to ‘come on down to Philadelphia and support us’.
Having spent the best part of an hour inspecting the counting procedures, he did not did produce a shred of evidence anything was untoward. As Lewandowski finished his rant, the Democrat-supporting MC was off again. ‘Were gonna count the vote, yo,’ he bopped on his microphone. ‘You can’t stop the revolution!’
As morning became afternoon, the atmosphere grew ever more bitter. Black supporters from either side engaged in their own personal slanging match.
‘Sell out!’ screamed a Democrat at one black Trump supporter.
‘You’re selling out our democracy!’ came the response. It was, in microcosm, the story of this election: not so much a meeting of minds but two sides separated by an unbridgeable abyss.