Trump’s Pittsburgh speech draws protesters Downtown


Caela Go | Staff Photographer

Demonstrators gathered outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to protest President Donald Trump, who visited Pittsburgh to speak at the annual Shale Insight Conference.

By Benjamin Nigrosh, Staff Writer

President Donald Trump’s speech at the Shale Insight Conference on Wednesday turned the intersection of Penn Avenue and 10th Street into the marching ground for a few hundred protesting Pittsburghers.

Just a few hundred yards away from Trump’s speech, a crowd at the intersection of Penn Avenue and 10th Street was singing “This Land Is Your Land” — trying to make their voices loud enough to be heard inside the convention, organizer Tracy Baton said.

“I assure everyone that you can hear us inside the convention center,” Baton said. “So as long as we are outside cheering and drumming, we will be doing what we need to do.”

Baton is a Pitt alumna, the director of Women’s March Pittsburgh and the co-director of Indivisible Pittsburgh. Although the event was advertised on Facebook with the hashtag #ImpeachAndRemove, Baton said Wednesday’s event had a larger mission.

“This particular action is to stand with American democracy,” Baton said. “To say that our values matter, to say that if there was ever a reason that the emoluments clause mattered, then this is it.”

Trump addressed the convention with attendees from across the energy industry, from oil and gas workers to the CEOs of large energy corporations, who had gathered to talk about public policy in the environmental and energy sectors. During his speech, the president congratulated himself on succeeding in his promises to roll back environmental regulations and to build more pipelines. He also praised his controversial decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which he clashed with Mayor Bill Peduto over in 2017.

Marie Norman, an associate professor of medicine at Pitt, said she protests because she loves America.

“It’s because I love our country that I’m here,” Norman said. “I love the fact that while we do not always live up to our founding principles we recognize a duty to try to create a more perfect union.”

Norman highlighted the recent tally from the Wall Street Journal’s Fact Checker that the president has told more than 13,000 lies since coming to office.

“If we want a future defined by law and reason, facts and science, decency and compassion, if we care about the rule of law, about the checks and balances that prevent tyranny in this fragile democracy, we have no choice but to impeach in the house, convict in the senate and remove this dangerous and unstable president and office,” Norman said.

Nathaniel Yap, a Pittsburgh native and local activist, said democracy requires accountability.

“We are not going to let these attacks on democracy stand,” Yap said. “We the people will hold the president, every member of this administration, every member of Congress, that’s an important one, accountable and ensure that our democracy, our Constitution and our freedoms are protected.”

Yap, the son of parents who immigrated from the Philippines, said he learned his ideas of freedom and liberty from them.

“They were looking for freedom and opportunity for themselves, for their children and their grandchildren,” Yap said. “Because they knew what authoritarian governments could do. They clamored for democracy, they deeply valued freedom.”

According to Yap, his parents recognized the same authoritarian tendencies in Trump that they had in the leader they fled to come to America. Though previously staunch Republicans, they voted outside of the party since becoming U.S. citizens for the first time in 2016, he said.

“Some folks contend that these times are not ones for Americans to be partisan,” Yap said. “I disagree. With a president who betrays the United States of America so repeatedly and so callously, we do need to be partisan. We need to be partisan on behalf of one thing — the democracy of the United States of America.”

Samantha Schatten, a Pitt junior political science and Spanish major, said partisan protests are important because they ensure that their voices are loud.

“[Protesting] is one of the most important things you can do,” Schatten said. “It’s a bare minimum to vote, but you also have to get your voice out there and protest when you see injustice. It tells legislators that not only do we not agree with them but we’re actively going to fight for what we think is right.”

The president’s visit comes near the anniversary of the Tree of Life shooting in Squirrel Hill that killed 11 members of the synagogue’s congregation. Just after the tragedy, the president’s visit to the City inspired similar protests.

Norman, a Squirrel Hill native, said this violence comes from the president giving hatred a platform.

“Donald Trump has hijacked our democracy,” Norman said. “He sows discord, hatred and fear wherever he goes.”

Along with putting Americans in danger, Norman said, the president has changed the way we look at American values.

“Instead of a leader who is willing to solve these problems we have a president so corrupt so self-serving, juvenile, petty and incapable of honesty or decency that he poses an existential threat to everything we value,” Norman said.

According to Schatten, these are not the kinds of issues that can be solved with idleness. She said that people need to come out and speak directly to their policymakers.

“This is a warning to Trump that this needs to be a one-term presidency,” Schatten said.