Pittsburgh stands with Paris, truth and Mayor Bill Peduto in his public feud with President Trump: that was the message delivered Saturday by upwards of one thousand people who marched in Downtown Pittsburgh at the “March for Truth: Pittsburgh says yes to Paris” rally.
“Pittsburgh is the shining example of what the Paris agreement is all about,” said Mayor Peduto in his keynote address to the crowd.
During brief remarks, the Mayor, clad in a black Penguins jacket and Pirates hat, stressed that “we can’t bury our head in the sand and think that by pulling out of this agreement we’re going to stop the world.”
Peduto urged those who supported President Trump “not to be fed false hope that we’re going to go back into the past and create an economy based on the 19th century.
“Look to Pittsburgh,” he said, “to see how over this 30 years we’re no longer producing big steel, but we’re producing big ideas and big products to make the economy of all of southwestern PA stronger and understand that we are all on this planet together and that the only way we’re going to be able to do great things is by working together.”
Announced weeks ago, the grassroots protest, one of nearly 150 in cities nationwide, was originally organized to call for an “impartial investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and ties to Donald Trump and his associates.”
The march took on an added significance locally after the President evoked the city’s name at the White House Thursday when announcing that the United States would begin the process of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the President said.
Mayor Peduto, who was in attendance at the COP 21 climate summit in Paris, fired back on Twitter, in the media, and with an executive order Friday” “Reinforcing Pittsburgh’s Commitment to the Global Partnership on Climate Change,” which reaffirmed the city’s commitment to, among other things, a 100% renewable energy supply for city government-owned facilities, a 100% fossil fuel-free vehicle fleet, and an overall 50% energy consumption and water use reduction, all by the year 2030.
In Washington, DC, a rally dubbed “Pittsburgh not Paris” was held at the same time this morning. It attracted only an estimated few dozen to a couple hundred people and Trump was not among them, according to The Week. (Is it possible Pittsburgh drew a larger crowd?)
In any case, protestors in Pittsburgh began with an 11 a.m. rally on the steps of the City-County Building before marching to Market Square, chanting and signing along the way:
We want transparency, down with dishonesty!
When democracy is under attack, what do we do? / Stand up, fight back!
The first speaker, Indivisible Pittsburgh‘s Tracy Baton, helped to organize this event as well as the Pittsburgh Women’s March in January. She invoked the name of Greek philosopher Diogenes in affirming the need for a government that acknowledges truth:
“The truth being under attack is the first sign of authoritarian regimes who want to attack liberal democracy,” said Baton, before affirming her support for equality, women’s rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement, to vigorous applause from the crowd.
“Stand with your city, stand with your neighbors, stand with Pittsburgh and stand for the truth, because the truth matters every day,” she exhorted.
“I think it’s important across the country that residents stand up and let the president, and honestly their congressmen and their senators, know that the people of the United States do not support the president’s decision,” said City Councilperson Dan Gilman, who was in attendance.
“The majority of Americans recognize that climate change is a real threat not only to the environment and future generations but also for our economy.”
The rally attracted people from across the region, including Brendan Muckian, a social studies teacher from West Virginia who attended with his mother, Maribeth, and nine-month-old daughter, Sophia.
“She’s nine months old but this is her second protest,” said Meribeth, referring to the Women’s March in January.
“Slowly the erosion of individual rights leads to the rise of authoritarianism and slowly increases fear of one another,” said Brendan. “I don’t want to look back at this time and say I could have done more. So for my daughter’s sake, my family’s sake and for everyone’s sake, I want to say that my hands are clean and that I’ve done what I could.”