Groups Demonstrate Downtown Demanding All Votes Be Counted

Nov 4, 2020

Demonstrators gathered in downtown Pittsburgh Wednesday afternoon for two protests to demand that, “every ballot be counted” in Pennsylvania. Later in the evening three people were arrested after a group split off from one of the protests. The state has been a major focus of the 2020 Election, as ballots are still being counted to determine which presidential candidate will earn the commonwealth’s 20 electoral votes.

President Donald Trump filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia Wednesday laying the groundwork for contesting results in those battleground states. In Pennsylvania, the lawsuit seeks to intervene in a Pennsylvania case submitted to the Supreme Court that deals with whether ballots received by Friday –but postmarked by Tuesday– should be counted.

Around 4 p.m., faith, labor and environmental advocacy groups assembled near the City County Building on Grant Street. Groups represented included Pennsylvania United, Pittsburgh United, SEIU 32BJ, SEIU Healthcare PA, United Steelworkers, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, Bend the Arc and the Pittsburgh chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. 

Protesters kept to the sidewalk as speakers called for fair ballot counts and received honks from passing cars. Artinese Malachi, an executive board member with SEIU Healthcare PA, said she was encouraged by comments made by state officials in the last day committing to counting every Pennsylvania ballot. She said many voters in her union who work odd hours were able to use a mail-in ballot this year. She also noted that health care workers are very conscious of the potential risk of exposure to COVID-19 at polling locations. 

"Leaving work and then running straight into the polls just doesn't seem safe," she said about her decision to use a mail-in ballot. "So a lot of us [nurses] did vote by mail." 

Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy, managing director of Pennsylvania United, said organizers intend to keep showing up to continue calling for all Pennsylvania votes to be counted regardless of how long it takes. "This is a democracy, it works the best when all of us are included. And so we want to see every single vote counted,” she said.

At 5:30 p.m., another rally began at the City-County building, led by Pittsburgh Socialist Alternative and nine other leftist groups including the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the CMU Labor Coalition, the Green Party of Allegheny County, Stop the Station and the Sunrise Movement.

Rebecca Rovins, a member of Socialist Alternative and CMU Labor Coalition, said the groups gathered there had less faith in the democratic process and were concerned Democratic leaders wouldn’t be able to guarantee a fair vote count.

Bike marshals blocked off a portion of Grant Street as speeches were made before protesters briefly marched through Downtown. 

Participants later returned to the City-County Building where speeches continued. Several hours into the demonstration, a small, unidentified group broke off to begin a second, separate march.

Protesters carried road flares and pulled roadwork signs and trashcans into the street as they walked through the Hill District near PPG Paints Arena before returning to the City-County building downtown. Police officers on bicycles followed behind clearing the streets of debris.

Once back on Grant Street, the small group dispersed along with bike marshals as dozens of police cruisers, vans and motorcycle officers approached. Dozens of officers emerged with face shields and zip ties while others waited inside unmarked vans.

 

The officers stood guarding the City-County building, where a hammer and sickle was spray painted, and several blocks of Grant Street after protesters dispersed. A public safety spokesperson said three people were arrested downtown and they face charges including criminal mischief and propulsion of objects onto a roadway.