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Politics & Government

Pittsburghers Rally Downtown To Say Yes To Paris Agreement

Despite a bomb threat for Market Square called in to Pittsburgh Police Saturday morning, a few hundred protestors marched from the City County Building on Grant Street to show their disdain for President Donald Trump.

The anti-Trump march was planned weeks ago, but took on a more focused message of “Pittsburgh says yes to Paris” following Thursday’s announcement that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.  In making that announcement Thursday, Trump said, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

“Pittsburgh said yes to the better candidate,” said rally organizer Tracy Baton referring to the fact that Pittsburgh voters overwhelming chose Hillary Clinton in the November election.

“Pittsburgh says yes to the future, Pittsburgh says yes to clean air and water, Pittsburgh says yes to the truth that our government needs to be accountable,” Baton said.

Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA
Anti-President Trump protesters march down Grant Street Saturday.

The rally, which began on the steps of the City County Building on Grant Street, was delayed as Pittsburgh police cleared a backpack from Market Square.  When the march began, it spread over more than two city blocks. Marchers carried signs with slogans such as “Pittsburgh and Paris, one planet” and “Yes to Paris, No to Putin.”   

John Scarpaci, of Mt. Oliver, held a sign that read in French “We are all Parisians.”

“I’m here to send a message to Washington that climate change is a world problem,” said Scarpaci. “[Trump] has only a passing acquaintance with facts and truth and I don’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth."

On the other side of the City County Building portico stood Connie Fleeger of Butler, Pa.  She said she was there because she is “horrified” and was embarrassed when the president held up Pittsburgh as an example while denouncing the Paris Climate Accord. 

“I think the country has been taken over by Trump and Russia," Fleeger said. "We need to stand up and say this is our country, we are not your company."

Her sign read, “Hey Trump, Pittsburgh despises you.”

Fleeger said she knew about the march earlier in the week and was considering making the trip, but decided she had to go after Thursday’s speech.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke at the event with the opening line: “Mr. President, this is Pittsburgh.”

He followed the cheers by telling the crowd that a number of mayors have come out to say they will continue to follow the accord, no matter what the federal government does.

Friday, Peduto issued an executive order saying the city would, among other things, work to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity consumption for municipal operations; a citywide zero waste initiative to divert 100 percent of materials from landfills; 50 percent energy consumption reduction citywide; and develop a fossil fuel-free fleet.

“It starts with us. It starts with what we do to reduce our carbon foot print,” Peduto said. “Pittsburgh the shining example of what the Paris Agreement is all about ... We’ve built a new economy. One built upon science, technology, medicine, finance, science, robotics and we're back on the national state again.”

Among the reporters at the event was Philippe Rande from France Inter radio. Rande had been sent to the U.S. ahead of Trump’s announcement to cover the fallout from Washington D.C., but when Pittsburgh was singled out in the speech, he headed to western Pennsylvania.

“I went to Johnstown to meet Trump voters," Rande said "I talked to people who were very happy with Trump saying, 'we elected him to get out of [the Paris Climate Accord].'”

While interviewing Peduto, Rande told the Mayor no one knew who he was until Thursday and now he is a symbol. 

“It’s not a symbol of a person, it’s a symbol of America," Peduto said. "That although this president puts out statements, which we question too, that as an American we are firm believers that we have a role to play in this world."

Several other March for Truth rallies had been planned throughout the country.  A quickly organized pro-Trump “Pittsburgh not Paris” rally was held in D.C. Social media reports say it was sparsely attended