It was a busy couple of days for the activist community and the Pittsburgh Branch of the ISO, but it ended up being a labor of love and peace, as we experience a remarkable moment in time. We are bearing witness to solidarity and intersectionality on a scale not seen in recent history.
Of the five events, the first was The People’s Inauguration held at the storied Freedom Corner in the city’s Lower Hill district (Freedom Corner was a rally point for blacks during the civil rights days of the 1960’s). The event was hosted by One Pennsylvania and was attended by nearly 300 comrades at noon on Inauguration Day. Speakers represented a broad coalition, including the Hill District Consensus Group, the Education Rights Network, the LCLAA (a Latino labor activists group), black feminist activists, the Sierra Club, Fight for 15, and Planned Parenthood.
Participants took an oath to “…preserve, protect, and defend the People of the United States.” Chris Ellis, an organizer with the Fight for 15 and a union, said that he’s been “All in from the beginning” and knows that we need to bring all causes together and “2017 is the year to do it!”
The event ended with local singer Flo Wilson belting out a soulful ballad of love and peace.
Later that afternoon was “Resist Trump: Occupy the Inauguration” at Point State Park in Downtown. This rally and march was organized by Socialist Alternative and was attended by a couple of hundred folks ready to hit the streets. A member of the ISO spoke alongside others who agree that capitalism is failing and socialism is the alternative. There is a “connecting of the dots” happening right now, as themes included: immigrant rights, Black Lives Matter, ending mass incarceration, stopping gentrification, a living wage and union rights, protecting the water, reproductive and health care rights, ending LGBTQ+ discrimination, rejecting xenophobia, and ending imperialist interventions (and more).
But the day was not over yet, as the ISO hosted the Anti-Inauguration, our first event on the University of Pittsburgh campus (where we have just been recognized as an official student group). Comrades from the DSA also attended this Live Stream event and participated in a robust and healthy dialogue after the screening. The discussion ran well past the posted time as participants were fully engaged and collaborated on how we all move forward together in solidarity.
Bright and early Saturday morning, ISO members spoke on the panel at the 19th Annual Summit Against Racism in the East Liberty neighborhood. This year’s theme was “Polarization to Cooperation: How Do We Get There”. This summit was created after the tragic death of Jonny Gammage, a black motorist pulled over and murdered by the racist police in suburbs of Pittsburgh (Gammage was also the cousin of then Pittsburgh Steeler Ray Seals).
Again, the discussion portion was so vibrant that it had to be cut off so participants could attend “Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional Rally/March” also held in the East Liberty neighborhood. This was a separate event from the permitted “Sister March for Pittsburgh” held in Downtown. There were efforts in the planning stages of the Sister March to get more input from marginalized communities. The efforts to coordinate with more persons of color proved futile and the more intersectional march became necessary as organizers expressed concerns that suburbanites were too fearful to head into the inner city. Obviously, we’re not where we need to be yet – but let’s not quibble, since we did see enormous solidarity in multiple events as a wide range of comrades spoke out and stood up against hatred.
The non-permitted rally and march was by far the best showing of intersectionality witnessed over the two-day stretch. No one could remember ever hearing and seeing the term “intersectionality” used with such great understanding – and this fact has energized activists.
Over 2,000 people attended the rally held at the recently demolished site of affordable housing (the Penn Plaza Apartments), where activists have been waging (and winning!) a battle against a Whole Foods development. The diverse set of speakers covered LGBTQ+ rights, equality, housing, health care, and the rights of the disabled, amongst other things. This event rapidly outgrew expectations, and with so many participants, it became difficult to hear some of the speakers – even with a large sound system.
The non-permitted march left the sidewalks and took the streets without incident. The police had no choice but to serve as traffic control as protestors covered the span of several blocks through the heart of the East Liberty business district. Marchers chanted and carried very creative signs (too numerous and colorful to mention here). They headed directly to the Summit Against Racism for another brief rally on the steps of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
Whew! It was an intense couple of days. And today, there is an invigorated feeling in the air as comrades vow to continue the fight for solidarity. We are truly many!