November 29, 2016
More than 1,500 people gathered Nov. 16 at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland to march to Pittsburgh’s South Side in a demonstration of support to communities that they felt have been marginalized since Donald Trump’s election.
Demonstrators came together in solidarity to support those who have felt targeted by President-elect Donald Trump and some of his supporters. Dustin Butoryak, a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, said he was there to protect the rights of his friends.
“A lot of my friends have been marginalized by the election results,” Butoryak said. “America should be a safe place for everyone to speak their voice. There is a lot of fear in place now.”
Meaghan Welch, a junior at Point Park, agreed that protesting gives a voice to those who feel they have been ignored.
“This allows us to have some sort of voice in what happens from this point on,” Welch said. “We are causing disruption so people will pay attention. Hate is not the majority.”
Some marchers expressed that they have felt silenced by the result of the presidential race. For many, this was the first election they were able to vote in. According to Isabel Tarcson, a freshman at Duquesne University, the outcome was more than discouraging.
“This was the first election I was eligible to vote and I felt as if my voice didn’t matter,” Tarcson said. “Some of my friends have been marginalized as well. Protesting gives me the opportunity to get my voice heard.”
Demonstrators’ signs for the LGBT community, women’s choice and environmental activists waved above the crowd to deliver a message that some of Trump’s policies acting against these groups would not be tolerated by protestors. Multiple rainbow flags and signs that read “My body, my choice” were some of the most shared points of view.
Mary Sgro, a freshman at Duquesne University spoke on Trump’s comments and actions toward women during his campaign.
“There’s no place for a rapist in the White House,” Sgro said. “Some of the experiences my friends and I have had has really shaped me. This is not something that is to be accepted,” Sgro said.
Another protester, Alison Hillard of Pittsburgh, held a sign that said, “Even Hogwarts fell to Voldemort.” Hillard said she was fearful of what America has become.
“I’m terrified,” Hillard said. “I always knew this part of America existed, but I didn’t know it was so prevalent. This entire campaign, it’s just been so in my face. [Trump is] just another white guy who faked his way into a job with no experience.”
The protest died down early. As demonstrators hit a standstill from police on Birmingham Bridge, the majority moved back into Oakland instead of crossing into the South Side. The march ended back where it began, on the lawn of the Cathedral of Learning on Pitt’s campus.
Without any major clashes with police, the protest stayed peaceful as planned. The event was coordinated by freshmen at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). Communication to the public about the route and nature of the protest was conveyed primarily through social media.
Steel City Sisters, a group of 21st century nuns in drag, were among those that reinforced the power of peace at the protest. Roxanna Hardplace said the Steel City Sisters’ mission is to offer support, especially to those in the LGBT community who continue to face harassment.
“We are striving to promulgate joy, expiate stigmatic guilt and serve the community,” Hardplace said. “If we can come out in public dressed like this and be okay with it, then you should be able to go out and be yourself.”
The Sisters are a part of the Mission House of Perpetual Indulgence, a group that began defending the LGBT community during the AIDS epidemic of the 1970s. Sister Petra Pyper Pictapekhov said this is just another opportunity to help.
“Nuns with beards hit the streets to bring joy and give hugs to those that are suffering,” Pictapekhov said.
Sister Coco Lopez-Fitzgerald III said he joined the abbey as a result of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.
“We just really want to spread love in our community,” Lopez-Fitzgerald said. “Peace will happen in our time, but it’s hard work. That’s why we are out here.”