The story behind the ‘Edgy Elder’ arrested at Donald Trump’s Pittsburgh rally

Michael Bagdes-Canning said he would have done the same thing if it had been Hillary Clinton visiting Pittsburgh.

A Pittsburgh police officer asked Michael Bagdes-Canning to stay out of the street during a protest when Donald Trump was in Pittsburgh on Sept. 22.

A Pittsburgh police officer asked Michael Bagdes-Canning to stay out of the street during a protest when Donald Trump was in Pittsburgh on Sept. 22.


When Donald Trump was in Pittsburgh speaking at the Shale Insight conference and attending a fundraiser Sept. 22, peaceful protests turned into at-times tense moments between police — in riot gear and on horses — and crowds in the street.

One person, Michael Bagdes-Canning, was arrested that day after police said he pushed his way into the revolving door of the Duquesne Club, where the fundraiser took place.

Bagdes-Canning, a 63-year-old Butler County man, appeared before Magisterial District Judge Kevin Eugene Cooper Jr. on Wednesday morning on charges including misdemeanor resisting arrest and misdemeanor defiant trespassing.

These are the five things you need to know about him:

1.  He’s not in as much trouble as he could have been.

Bagdes-Canning pleaded guilty to two summary offenses (similar to traffic tickets): disorderly conduct and defiant trespassing. The two misdemeanor charges against him were withdrawn, court records show.

He’ll have to pay two $100 fines and isn’t welcome back at the Duquesne Club.

“I wasn’t planning to go back anyways,” he said.

Bagdes-Canning has been arrested before, notably during Gov. Tom Wolf’s inauguration, PennLive reported.

“I don’t ever want to be arrested, but for me, this was an important thing to at least make an attempt to speak for the people I work with,” he said.

2.  He was trying to get face time with Donald Trump and would have done the same for Hillary Clinton.

Bagdes-Canning wanted to tell the Republican presidential candidate about water issues in Butler County but couldn’t pay to get into the fundraiser.

“I knew that I wanted to address Mr. Trump. I wanted to talk to him. I was willing to risk arrest if, maybe, I could get close enough to maybe yell to him, ‘Hey. These people are paying obscene amounts to talk to you. There are people who really need to talk to you and they can’t afford to be in here,'” he said.

“If Sec. [Hillary] Clinton had been the person who had been there that day instead of Trump, I would have done the same thing. Because absolutely, this money in politics, where people are able to buy their way in front of somebody, is absolutely wrong.”

Check out this video from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Megan Guza. Thirteen seconds in, you can see Bagdes-Canning, who is wearing a gray hat, leading the pack and standing in the Duquesne Club’s revolving door.

Two things happened then, he said: “I saw that as soon as I came out I was probably going to be arrested and I wasn’t really anxious to be arrested.” Also, someone else was trying to exit the club as he was going in, so Bagdes-Canning said he let that person back into the building before sitting for what he guessed was maybe five minutes to contemplate his next move.

“Did I just want to sit there and stay there for hours? Or did I want to just meet my consequence?”

Eventually he went into the Duquesne Club, where he was handcuffed, and was taken to the Allegheny County Jail.

3.  He’s an ‘Edgy Elder.’

The Edgy Elders, a group of retirees and grandparents, hung outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center toting a 40-foot banner and fighting for a ban on fracking, prison reform and “justice.”

“We’re old,” he said.

Jasmine Goldband / THE INCLINE

That was their first time coming together as a group, Bagdes-Canning said. When they watched the motorcade leave the convention center, they walked over to the Duquesne Club with others from the rally.

Pittsburgh police Det. Michelle Auge wrote in her criminal complaint that outside the Duquesne Club, Bagdes-Canning “was holding one side of a very large sign that was originally stretched across Sixth Avenue.” (When Auge walked into municipal court on Wednesday morning, Bagdes-Canning waved and yelled over to her, “Hello!”)

You can see more photos from the protest here.

4.  He was at the protest because of water quality issues.

Bagdes-Canning volunteers with Marcellus Outreach Butler to organize and reach out to victims. The Woodlands community of Butler County — which has about 50 families living on 400 acres that are surrounded by 77 wells — has been without potable water for more than five years, he said. He’s been working with them for about that long.

Brown and black water ran from taps there and sickened residents starting in 2011, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, leading to lawsuits being filed against shale driller Rex Energy.

It’s not always clear, though, that fracking is to blame for water quality issues, PRI noted.

“The DEP says an increase in demand for water stressed the local aquifer that supplies groundwater. In 2012, the EPA concluded that pre-drilling and post-drilling samples collected from two Woodlands properties by Rex Energy and the DEP showed similar drinking water quality,” PennLive reported a year ago.

5.  He’s running for office.

The Green Party member served on the Cherry Valley Borough Council for decades and ran for county commissioner in 2015. Now, he’s vying for a seat as state representative of the 64th district, which encompasses part of Butler and all of Venango counties. More on his platform here.

He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Chris Potter that he doesn’t think his arrest will affect his candidacy.

And, yes, he’s supporting fellow Green Party member Jill Stein for president.