The Day After: Pitt, city respond to Trump


One protest originated at the Point, and was picked up students from throughout Pittsburgh. Stephen Caruso | Online Visual Editor

By The Pitt News staff

Just 24 hours after Donald Trump won the presidential election, the streets of Pittsburgh — like many other cities across the country — have held the rallying cries of disgruntled citizens.

In Pittsburgh, protests have remained mostly peaceful, though police hit protesters in East Liberty Wednesday night with smoke bombs to drive them out of the street.

Trump earned his 270th electoral vote, officially beating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, but protests at Pitt were already underway.

About 50 students gathered on the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Forbes Avenue, some with bandanas covering their faces, but most dressed as if they’d wandered down from dorms or study sessions in the library. Eventually, more than 300 students joined in the protest, circling between Forbes and Fifth avenues. Police cited a few students, but no one was arrested.

For those in protest, though, like first-year student Nanno Dandi, the marches and rallies were a way to join together, even if it was just vocally.

“I feel like my voice wasn’t heard today,” she said. “So that’s why I’m out in the streets.”

One protester burned a "Make America Great Again" shortly after Trump won the election. John Hamilton | Staff Photographer
One protester burned a “Make America Great Again” shortly after Trump won the election. John Hamilton | Staff Photographer

Before the results: 1:45 a.m.
Once Pennsylvania officially went to Trump, students gathered in Oakland’s streets where they marched, toppled trash cans and grabbed traffic cones to use as megaphones for nearly three hours.

The students called it a revolution. They marched along Fifth Avenue to Craft Avenue, turning down Forbes Avenue and walking to Bigelow Boulevard, completing the square several times in the hours-long protest while chanting sentiments such as “Donald Trump go away. Donald Trump go away. Fascist, racist, anti-gay,” and “Out of the sidewalks, into the streets.”

First-year student Max Gehringer said he was one of the first students to gather outside of Hillman Library to join the protest. Gehringer said he was “terrified” when Florida and Ohio went to Trump.

“For a bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic man to be presumably elected president, that was enough to get me down here,” Gehringer said. “This country was founded on inclusion, and we will continue to stand for that.”

The student protestors held up signs written on broken cardboard boxes reading, “Let’s do this together.” They banged street signs, beat drums and threw rolls of toilet paper along the streets. Some students knocked over trash cans in anger while others sweeped behind to right them.  

Police said the protest started with about 50 students and grew to more than 300 marchers in two hours. The protest ended with about 150 students occupying the patio of Hillman Library, with about 12 police officers blocking the doors. The students formed a “healing circle” to voice their fears about the Trump presidency, mostly from minority groups worried about increased marginalization.

Pitt junior Marlo Safi, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the right-leaning Pitt Maverick site, covered the student protest in the early hours of Wednesday morning, as Trump’s victory became apparent. Safi — who has been an opinions editor at The Pitt News — described the protest on campus as “petrifying.”

“I was witnessing students chanting in the street in the dark [and] knocking over barriers,” Safi said. ”Being Syrian, having family living in a civil war, I couldn’t help but think about a war-torn area.”

Safi said the protest was not a productive way for students to handle their concerns and discontent, particularly since it did not promote discussion between Trump supporters and opposers.

“That is not civil discourse. That is not the way to go about anything productive,” Safi said. “If you want to combat racism, if you want to combat the KKK, if you want to combat bigotry … the method of doing that is not violence.”

A number of Safi’s friends and acquaintances are Trump supporters, and Safi said she warned them not to wear their “Make America Great Again” hats around campus, out of fear they would be attacked or harassed.

“If it starts to infringe on the safety of other students, that is not behavior that should be promoted,” Safi said. “If we want to make sure that our country and our campus remains safe, we need to engage in civil discourse that is devoid of violence.”

William Brosnahan, a junior at Carnegie Mellon, leads a chant as the march against hate heads up Forbes Avenue towards CMU. Stephen Caruso | Online Visual Editor
William Brosnahan, a junior at Carnegie Mellon, leads a chant as the march against hate heads up Forbes Avenue towards CMU. Stephen Caruso | Online Visual Editor

The morning after: 10 a.m.

The morning after Trump’s win saw less angry protesting and more students focused on promoting togetherness in the wake of what many have called a monumental divide in the United States.

About 100 people, some waving signs and others carrying umbrellas, marched to “the fence” ––  a popular area on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus for students to meet up. Protesters met at 10 a.m. at Point State Park, and walked through Downtown before making their way up Forbes Avenue.

Led by people holding a banner reading “Love is love,” marchers chanted, “We are one,” “We will not hate” and “We will love” as cars honked in response.

Megan Kennedy, 23, from Shadyside, spontaneously joined the protest after she walked out of Starbucks. Kennedy said she was “feeling down” after the election results were announced, but the march gave her hope.

“What’s brilliant is people being strong about what they believe in, despite the results of the election,” Kennedy said.

On Pitt’s campus, about 15 students smiled as they held “free hug” signs in in front of the Cathedral — where, just hours before, police blocked protesters from breaking their way through the locked doors.

Erin Allport, 24, from New Kensington, took a sick day from work because she said she would be unable to focus. Yet, Allport said the march was “encouraging” because it offered people an outlet for coping with their fear.

“I mean, ‘love trumps hate,’” Allport said when other protesters began chanting the phrase. “It’s so important. Everyone is afraid, but this is how we’re going to get through this. We need to keep living with love.”

In Market Square Downtown, protesters held candles as they discussed their fears. Stephen Caruso | Senior Staff Photographer
In Market Square Downtown, protesters held candles as they discussed their fears. Stephen Caruso | Senior Staff Photographer

The evening: 5:30 p.m.

The streets of Oakland were quiet Wednesday night, but Pitt students and Pittsburghers continued to protest Downtown and in East Liberty.

Some protests drew a large crowd —  an “emergency meeting” had a crowd of about 250 people in East Liberty. Others, such as the “Candlelight Vigil for America” by Point State Park,  remained intimate.

Downtown in Market Square, about 75 Pittsburghers gathered to find solace after Trump’s victory made many fear for the well-being of their LGBTQ+, black and Latino friends.

Bundled up against the brisk November cold, the demonstrators cupped flickering yellow candles in their hands as individuals from throughout the community took the microphone to share their thoughts and fears.

One of those who chose to speak was James Petraglia, 31, of Moon.

“I wasn’t really upset [from the election] at first,” Petraglia said.

As a gay man, he started to fear for the future with Trump, a “bully,” in the White House and with Mike Pence as his vice president.

Looking at Pence’s record on LGBTQ+ issues, which includes seeking federal funds for “assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior” as well as supporting a “religious freedom” bill that let business owners refuse service to LGBTQ+ individuals, Petraglia decided to speak for “catharsis.”

Standing toward the back, listening thoughtfully, Katelyn Walker, a Point Park film student, said she was disgusted with her home country.

“This country pretends these [social issues] aren’t important,” Walker said.

At an East Liberty protest, police used a smoke bomb to clear the streets. Rachel Glasser | Staff Photographer
At an East Liberty protest, police used a smoke bomb to clear the streets. Rachel Glasser | Staff Photographer

The night: 7:00 p.m.

Outside the Ace Hotel in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty, a crowd of about 250 met for an “organic, impromptu reaction” to the election.

Adam Shuck, publisher of Eat That, Read This, organized the event with Daniel Moraff, a community organizer, to people the opportunity to share in a peaceful opposition.

“We have to give people a chance to express how they’re feeling to connect to talk about how this is going to be affecting people’s lives, in Pittsburgh and across the country, and also what is to be done,” Shuck said. “This is the first of a series of events we’re sure to be organizing.”

The rally was originally meant to occur within the Ace Hotel, but the number of people required it to gravitate to the courtyard. Speakers in this portion were everyday people sharing their fears. The landing of the side door of the hotel formed the podium while the crowd gathered in the yard.

The crowd called out cries to stop the spread of hatred. Occasionally they would chant the names of organizations in need of support like the American Civil Liberties Union, New Voices Pittsburgh and the Alliance for Police Accountability, but overwhelmingly the sentiment was one of love and coming together as a community to stand against a Trump presidency.

Katrina Woodard, from Friendship and a Latina member of the LGBTQ+ community, attended the event to voice her opposition to Trump’s bigotry and anti-gay sentiment.

Woodard said the draw of the rally was that it was a gathering out of community lovingness, whose “strength multiplies when gathered.”

“For me, being up there was me coming out knowing full well it could be released,” Woodard said. “I needed to stand up to let others know we’re not standing down to inequality –– love will always win out.”

At about 9 p.m. the group filled the streets to march.

“No KKK, no fascist U.S.A., no Trump,” the crowd yelled.

Chants like this filled the neighborhood as the people marched forward, forcing oncoming traffic to turn around. Occasional honks and shouts of support from drivers added to the movement.
Andrew Eschrich, a junior human resources major at Pitt, attended the protest in East Liberty in addition to the protest held in Oakland the night before following election results. Eschrich said that the East Liberty protest revealed the extent of the discontent with Trump winning the presidency.

“We’re not alone,” Eschrich said. “[The movement against Trump] is not just Pitt students, it’s the whole community and the whole city collectively.”

After completing a loop that circled back to Ace Hotel, the group of protesters departed once again to protest.

This time, policemen arrived in riot gear. Armed with rubber bullets and batons, the police formed a line and threw a smoke bomb that sent people running in all directions. Along with eight police cars, the police then blocked protesters into a Wendy’s parking lot, where a verbal confrontation ensued.

“Pittsburgh is watching you,” one protester yelled out to the line of police officers standing in the street. Another chimed in, “The world is watching you.”

Eschrich said Clinton’s victory with the popular vote and failure to secure the electoral college particularly angered many of those in attendance.

“Why is it that Trump can win with a minority of the vote? That is not what democracy is about,” Eschrich said.

After the confrontation with police, one protester Mel Packer, 71, of Point Breeze, negotiated a compromise between the protesters and the police to walk back down Baum Boulevard to the Ace Hotel and conclude the march.

The rest of the protesters consented — for the night.

“We’ll be back,” they chanted before their final stretch down Baum Boulevard.

Ashwini Sivaganesh, Alexa Bakalarski, Caroline Bourque, David Robinson, Elaina Zachos, Emily Brindley, Lauren Rosenblatt, Rachel Glasser, Stephen Caruso, Salina Pressimone and Preena Patel contributed reporting.