President Donald Trump may have taken office a full month ago, but his detractors haven’t lost any of the passion they showed on inauguration day.
Marching to the beat of drums, hundreds of protesters rallied around causes ranging from immigrant rights to the environment and vocally opposed Trump Saturday at Schenley Plaza. Others gathered in downtown Pittsburgh Sunday morning to fight racism and imperialism by the president’s administration. The Pitt College Democrats, on Saturday, hosted their first rally since Trump’s win. The event kicked of at 2 p.m. with rousing speeches delivered by city councilmen, and planned parenthood activists, among more. A large crowd of about 250 mostly older Pittsburgh residents — some of whom brought their children — showed up to Schenley Plaza to dissent, while others came to challenge the protest itself.
The march circled the Cathedral of Learning, snaked up Fifth Avenue and culminated back at the plaza. At the beginning and end of the route, anarchists, communists and other groups outside the two-party system held flags condemning both parties and repeated chants directed at the protesters.
The anarchist disruption was planned in advance by Filler PGH, an anarchism-focused zine, and was intended to protest the Democrats. In a flier posted around campus, the group wrote “some really cool folks are getting involved [in dissent], but their intentions are continually sabotaged by the reality of our situation: the Democrats are part of the problem.”
At the rally, City Councilman Dan Gilman spoke enthusiastically to the crowd, pushing his mission of working to make Pittsburgh a “sanctuary city,” as he closed his brief statement.
“We do not believe in hate, we do not believe in fear, and yinz are always welcome here,” Gilman said.
First-year biology major, Sofia Russo, saw the disruption against the democrats, as she marched near the front of the crowd, protesting for her friends and family who are affected by the administration. Despite not agreeing with the anarchists’ rhetoric, she didn’t contest their presence.
“To trash the American flag, to me, is really disrespectful and so I don’t agree with them, but they have a right to do what they please,” Russo said.
The day after Pitt students and other members of the Pittsburgh community came together to protest Trump at Schenley Plaza, another group converged about three miles off campus to demonstrate against the new commander-in-chief.
The Pittsburgh chapter of the ANSWER Coalition, a national organization dedicated to fighting racism and imperialism, hosted their “Down With the Trump Agenda” rally at 1 p.m. Downtown Sunday.
Soon after the protest began in Market Square, speakers that the ANSWER coalition invited took turns railing against injustices in the United States through a megaphone. One of the first speakers, Frank Ariet, delivered a forceful speech, decrying anti-Muslim sentiment and the rising amount of hate crimes committed against Muslims since Trump began his campaign in 2015.
“I am a Muslim tired of watching my sisters get harassed, beaten, raped and killed,” Ariet said. “They are afraid to walk down the street because of people spitting in their faces and ripping off their hijabs.”
Eduardo Morales, another speaker, condemned Trump’s executive orders increasing the power of immigration officers and expanding the criteria an illegal immigrant must fit before being targeted for deportation.
“Please don’t forget the immigrant doesn’t leave his homeland because he wants to,” Morales said. “He does it because he needs to.”
As the speakers talked, many of the roughly 150 crowd members held up homemade signs. Some spelled out serious slogans — “Stop Trump – Shut Down White Supremacy” and “Resist with Love.” Other signs offered more lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek messages such as “Yuge embarrassment!” and “How’s the audit coming along?” in reference to Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns on the basis of an ongoing IRS audit.
Dinah Denmark, of downtown Pittsburgh, came to the protest with her wife. Her sign read “Save Immigrants. Deport Republicans!” She said she believes Trump’s presidency is nothing less than a political crisis, but she’s hopeful Trump will energize his political opposition enough to spur America on to positive change in the future.
“As a Jew and a lesbian, I know what it can mean to live in what could become a fascist environment,” Denmark said. “Hatred that is perpetuated by fear and ignorance is a dangerous cocktail. All of us have to raise our voices.”
And raise their voices the protesters did, cheering enthusiastically throughout the speaker’s speeches. At about 2:20 pm, the protesters took to the streets, following a police escort. Before the march began, the organizers called for peace, so the protest remained orderly and lawful. Members of the crowd could be heard thanking the police for their protection as they passed by.
One driver rolled down his car’s window and shouted, “Trump!” and “Get a job!” several times each at the protesters, who ignored him.
When the crowd reached Market Square once again, Taylor Goel, the Pittsburgh coordinator for the ANSWER Coalition, thanked the crowd for coming out, and told them to keep fighting for what they believe in.
“You could feel the people’s power in the air,” Goel said as the event ended. “Hopefully it’s becoming clear to people that only their own power can resist the Trump administration — not the millionaires in the Senate.”