Chants of “All love, no hate! That’s what makes America great,” projected through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh Sunday as citizens joined together to take part in the second annual Women’s March.
For some, the day was about walking for someone else. Gerard H. Weiss, 73, of Washington, Pennsylvania, attended the march with his daughter Polly to walk for his wife Nancy Weiss, who passed away several days earlier.
“She put in countless hours for women voters, really cared about democracy and seeing it destroyed under Trump, and she walked last year,” Weiss said. “I’m not a great walker, but that’s why I’m here.”
According to organizers, the crowd consisted of approximately 30,000 marchers of various ages, genders and races — a few thousand more than last year’s estimated crowd. Many of the people were carrying political signs to express their thoughts regarding the march, with one sign reading, “This isn’t a moment, it’s a movement.”
The march was organized by the Women’s March on Washington-Pittsburgh and the voter education group Indivisible Pittsburgh. This year, the organizers of the march incorporated the national new theme — “Power to the Polls” — into the march, which focused on the importance of voting in the upcoming midterm elections.
Mayor Bill Peduto, who said he attended the march in support of the women of Pittsburgh, said voting in non-presidential elections is critical to chaning “what’s happening right now in Washington.”
“The midterms will be the bellwether of 2020, but even more important, they will dictate where this country will go the next three years,” Peduto said. “If we want to see change happen we can’t wait until the next presidential [election]. You have to be out there.”
The event started at the Pittsburgh City-County Building at 11:30 a.m. Several candidates running in the midterm elections, including Democrat Summer Lee, who is running for the 34th Pennsylvania Senate seat, and Democrat Mike Devine, a candidate for the 20th Pennsylvania House of Representatives seat, had the chance to speak to the audience before the crowds started marching toward Market Square.
Marcher Cheryl Begg said events like the Women’s March are meant to be fun, but they’re also about progress and change.
“I came to support women and men everywhere who are saying that we need to be registered to vote and get the vote out, cause that’s the way we change things,” Begg said. “All of this is fun. But the work has to be done at the ballots.”
With polling rights and awareness as the focus of this march, other demonstrators attested to the importance of voting. Marcher Emma Christley, a Point Park student, said she was to bring visibility to issues she cares about.
“I believe in education and being an informed voter,” Christley said. “I mean, voting is the only power we have right now, and it would be a shame not to use it.”
Once the march took off, the crowd walked down Grant Street and Fifth Avenue, filling the atmosphere with chants about equality and justice, along with disagreements with President Donald Trump and his policies. They marched their way to the center of Market Square to hear from several community organizers who were hosting the event.
Tracy Baton, head organizer of the march, began by introducing each of the speakers, starting with William D. Anderson, an active member of redistricting reform group Fair Districts PA, who spoke about the need to put an end to partisan gerrymandering. He said many politicians redistrict certain areas to benefit their party, rather than accurately representing the people from those areas.
“We all know that the representation of our community should come from someone that comes from your community — someone who understands your community and knows what it needs,” Anderson said.
Baton introduced another speaker, Lisa Perri-Lang, who directed the 2017 Women’s March on Pittsburgh and also organized a group of 300 busses that brought marchers from Pittsburgh to the Women’s March on Washington last year. Perri-Lang spoke about the achievements accomplished by the women of Pittsburgh so far, and urged them to continue to push for progress.
“We will stand up against hate, greed, ignorance and anything that gets in the way of our freedom to live our lives without fear,” Perri-Lang said.
Closing out the speeches, Baton emphasized the need for continued efforts in registering more citizens to vote. She challenged the audience to reach out a hand to those who are too vulnerable to help themselves.
“We stand with real American values. We believe in justice, we believe in truth and that is the American way,” Baton said.