One week after Charlottesville, and two days after organizers postponed a “far right” rally here in Pittsburgh, a crowd of local officials, celebrities and community members gathered Friday for a peace and prayer vigil billed as a way to unify the city during an otherwise trying time.
“We’re here today, as Democrats and Republicans, as ministers and imams and rabbis,” Mayor Bill Peduto told the crowd outside the City-County Building on Grant Street at noon.
“We’re here today as people from all the different parts of our community that have felt marginalized and that have felt put down, and we’re here to work all together and to bring all of us up.”
Former Steeler Franco Harris spoke next, telling attendees, “There’s no doubt that people are trying to cause — they know they can’t get us from without, so they’re trying to get us from within.”
“But this flag will keep us together,” Harris added, pointing to an American flag positioned on the stage behind him. “One country, one flag.”
In what has become a common refrain in recent weeks and months, representatives from all three major religions — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — also spoke Friday of the common bonds between all people and of the need to counter hatred with love. Others spoke during the roughly hour-long event about the violence in Charlottesville, the president’s response and the counterpoint offered by progressive cities like Pittsburgh.
As the vigil took place, news broke that White House senior adviser Steve Bannon had been fired. Peduto announced the news live from the stage, prompting the Downtown crowd to erupt into cheers.
Here are some of the other thoughts offered by community members Friday:
Janera Solomon, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater: “The tragedy of Charlottesville and our president’s subsequent responses are really beyond words. I believe in thinking forward. Maybe it’s because I’m an artist and I’m a dreamer at heart. But dreams, as I’m sure you know, take actions. I’m also the mother of a seven-year-old, and I’m here today rather than in my office writing grant proposals because I’m thinking about her and her future and her existence in this world we live in, in this place we call America.”
Sister Janice Vanderneck, Casa San Jose: “The bible says there is a time to every purpose under heaven. And right now is the time for love. And I swear it’s not too late.”
Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills: “We have to say no to hate and intolerance. Only love can conquer hate. We must say to the world: ‘In Pittsburgh, you are welcome.’ ”