On ‘the first day of four years,’ Pittsburghers gather in Market Square to process Trump presidency

“I’m completely frickin’ terrified.”

Catherine Drabkin and husband Pahl Hluchan of the North Side at One Pittsburgh's post-election gathering

Catherine Drabkin and husband Pahl Hluchan of the North Side at One Pittsburgh's post-election gathering

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
Sarah Anne Hughes

A black female college student. A white gay man. A Jewish descendant of Holocaust survivors.

On the first evening since Donald Trump became president-elect, dozens of people gathered in Market Square to process what exactly that means.

The event was organized by One Pittsburgh, a coalition of economic and social justice groups. Executive Director Erin Kramer said they wanted to give people a space to come together in the wake of the election.

“For a lot of us, it’s — how do we use our privileges to protect those who are compromised?” Kramer said. “We were grappling with that this morning.”

Jasmine Goldband

Some of the people who spoke at the event expressed sadness and anxiety about the election result.

“I am the face of someone who you are going to discriminate against,” said James Petraglia, a gay man, to the future president.

A student from the University of Pittsburgh said she came for similar reasons: She’s 20, black and a woman.

“I’m completely frickin’ terrified,” she said, but added “the power of the people is unmatched … There are so many people with us.”

Becky Boyle spoke about her brother, who has a disability, and her father, who was going to vote for Trump until the then-candidate mocked a reporter with a disability.

“I would always fight for my brother,” Boyle said through tears. “And I got complacent.”

But, she continued, not anymore.

Several speakers echoed that idea: taking action in the face of a Trump presidency.

A woman from Brazil who works at a trucking company said she overheard two female co-workers laughing and wondering aloud if the company’s drivers would be deported.

Instead of staying silent as she’s done in the past — like when someone at her office told her to speak English — the woman said she went to her HR department.

Because, as she put it, “This is the first day of four years.”

Despite a painful loss, Kramer said One Pittsburgh will continue its work to make Pennsylvania and the U.S. a more progressive place.

“We believe that permanent progressive infrastructure … are what makes sustainable change,” Kramer said. “We’re not going away. We’ll be here tomorrow and the next day the next day.”

When spoken words felt insufficient, Jacquea Mae sang her song “Blind“:

Do I see the tears running down my face? With anger in my heart and no words to say.

Said I refuse to be blind.

Said I refuse to be blind.

Said you better take off the blinders. You better see what I see.

“We’re heartbroken,” Mae said.

But, she added, “I refuse to believe this is the end. This is the beginning.”