Members of the progressive Jewish group Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh protested President Donald Trump’s visit here on Oct. 23. Several were among 14 people arrested as they knelt at an off-ramp downtown during the morning commute.
Trump came to Pittsburgh to speak at an energy conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center later in the day.
Members of Bend the Arc — which also organized a demonstration when Trump visited Pittsburgh following the massacre at the Tree of Life building — felt “compelled by our Jewish values” to protest the president’s presence here, said Sara Stock Mayo, a member of Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh. Her husband, Jonathan Mayo, was one of at least four Pittsburgh Jews arrested on Oct. 23.
“We wanted to send a very clear message that this administration’s hateful rhetoric is causing violence,” she told the Chronicle. “And we believe it is partially what caused violence in our own community, and it is what also causes lots of other violence in other communities. We believe we are under a direct assault from this administration.
“We feel Jews are being used to weaponize,” Mayo continued. “They are trying to divide us. We are trying to remain united with other communities and we believe it is actually very anti-Semitic to say things like ‘Jews shouldn’t be Democrats’ or people are disloyal — dual loyalty. And the whole thing about people being savages. We feel there is a lot of blatant anti-Semitism going on in this administration, but we also wanted to stand in solidarity with other communities we feel are under attack. We think it is all coming from the same place, which is white nationalism.”
Several other peaceful protests were held during the day by various groups, including the umbrella environmental group People Over Petro. There were no additional arrests throughout the day, although seven members of Bend the Arc — most from outside of Pittsburgh — interrupted Trump’s speech at the conference by chanting “Trump endangers Jews.”
Trump responded to the chants by saying: “Don’t hurt them, don’t hurt them please. They don’t know they’re dealing with very tough people in this room.”
He then added: “All right, go home to Mom. Explain to Mom that you tried to take on very powerful people, and many of them physically as well as mentally — that’s not a good thing to do, not in this room, be careful. Make sure you don’t hurt them, please.”
Mayo described Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh as having turned into a “campaign rally,” which she said was bad timing coming just days prior to the one-year commemoration of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre.
The Bend the Arc protestors who disrupted Trump’s speech also condemned Trump for holding a campaign rally the night of the massacre.
“Our lives were not worth even a pause for him,” the protestors said in a statement. “As we remember the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in the history of the United States, we look with clear eyes at what made this horrific attack possible: callous politicians and pundits who use our fear as their weapon to build a country that’s only for themselves.
“The gunman who entered the synagogue a year ago was driven by fear and lies to kill Jewish people and stop new immigrants — but he didn’t invent these lies. He heard them from the mouth of this President and the white nationalists this president and his allies have emboldened and enable.”
Mayo noted the “incredible support” that Jews throughout Pittsburgh have given one another this past year, “crossing boundaries between Reform, Conservative, Orthodox.” She stressed that Bend the Arc is “not trying to divide our community.”
“We feel we are speaking out because we are being guided by our Jewish values,” she said. “And we recognize we don’t speak for everyone in the community. We speak for ourselves. I don’t feel like I’m trying to put words in anyone else’s mouth. I respect their right to have their First Amendment rights to say how they feel. This is how we feel. And this is also coming from a very deeply Jewish place for us. This is spiritual resistance. This is not just us standing up and saying, ‘No, no.’ It’s saying, ‘Not on my watch.’ It’s saying, ‘Never again.’”
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request from the Chronicle for comment. pjc
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at