Occupy Pittsburgh march targets corporate headquarters

By Bill Vidonic and Jason Cato, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, October 16, 2011

After a day of chanting, marching and speeches in Downtown, Occupy Pittsburgh protesters today are the guests of one of the corporate giants they oppose.

Protesters set up camp on Saturday night at Mellon Green, a park that global financial services giant BNY Mellon owns at Grant Street and Sixth Avenue, in the shadow of its 54-story office tower.

How long will they stay? “Until we win,” said Nick Lubecki, 28, of East Liberty, who owns a Point Breeze tree nursery. He said he would stay as long as possible.

In its first action after settling in for the evening, the campers agreed to protest or picket outside of BNY Mellon’s headquarters from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm. Wednesday.

“It seems like a protest that is just one day is not working. Protests that have a location that is ongoing can grow. It can build momentum. I want to build that momentum, and I want to be here,” Lubecki said.

Other protests inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement occurred yesterday in cities across the United States and Canada. In Washington, hundreds of protesters turned out, while a couple of thousand people gathered peacefully in Toronto’s St. James park, a few blocks from the city’s financial district.

In Philadelphia, about 500 protesters marched from a camp next to City Hall to the Liberty Bell for the second Saturday in a row. The crowd marched to the beat of a drum and chants such as “No justice, no peace” and “They get rich by starting wars, we won’t take it anymore.”

That followed demonstrations that began in New Zealand and rippled to European cities, including Rome, where the demonstration turned violent.

The mood was decidedly mild in Pittsburgh yesterday, though protesters still worked to make their point.

As he set up his tent at Mellon Green, Steve Cooper, 26, of Lower Burrell, who is unemployed, said, “No. 1, this signifies solidarity that you’re willing to sit out in the cold, but it’s also symbolic of taking the country back one space at a time.”

At least 20 tents had sprung up by yesterday evening.

Pittsburgh police told group members that they could camp at the park indefinitely, as long as they don’t damage the property. On Friday, BNY Mellon said it would not bar access and set up fencing to separate protesters from commuters and building tenants.

The occupation, to protest corporate greed and social injustice, came at the end of a day with nearly 2,000 people marching and rallying throughout Downtown and the Hill District.

College students marched shoulder to shoulder with senior citizens, with chants of “Stand up, fight back,” “Tear down Wall Street” and “The people united will never be divided” echoing down the streets, occasionally muted in a strong, chilly wind.

“I’m with old ladies and union workers, and we’re all chanting the same thing,” said Mark Donnelly, 35, of the South Side, a pharmaceutical sciences graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. “We’re fighting for scraps here.”

Protesters marched past corporations including Bank of New York Mellon Corp., UPMC, Federated Investors and PNC Financial Services Group, waving signs that carried messages such as “Where is the shared sacrifice?” and “Campaign contributions are bribes.”

As varied as the protesters were — from young to old, professionals to the unemployed — so were their messages. They spoke of good-paying jobs, protested against Marcellus shale drilling, urged single-payer health care coverage and shouted for racial and gender equality.

“I am a woman. I am an immigrant. I am a person of color, and I am a worker,” said Maria Somma, 46, of Westwood, a union organizer with the United Steelworkers. “And I am part of the 99 percent.”

Members of the Steelworkers union joined the march and Market Square rally, along with health care union members and other labor leaders. Patrons of several businesses in Market Square, including Starbucks, seemed unfazed, typing away on laptops or reading newspapers.

The rally did not go off quite as planned, as the group’s sound system was not delivered. Instead, protesters who wanted to spread their message had to shout into a bullhorn.

That meant that many people, instead of listening to speeches, broke off into smaller groups, sometimes engaging in spirited debates.

“The struggle is going to be long, so keep love in your hearts,” Susan Hoppe, 42, a physician from Point Breeze, shouted. “We’re all in this together.”

At the end of the rally at Market Square, many stayed behind to sway and dance to the beat provided by a small group of drummers.

Police erected barricades outside many of the corporate buildings in the area, but they reported no arrests and no vandalism complaints through yesterday evening.

“We weren’t going to stand for anything else, and (protesters) kept to their word,” Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant said; the group had vowed a nonviolent protest.

Police Lt. Ed Trapp said it was one of the quietest protests in years.

“I hope it’s a model for future protests,” Trapp said. “They communicated with us what they wanted to do.”

Jessie Farine, 23, of Polish Hill, a politics and philosophy student at Pitt, said at the end of the Market Square rally, “Occupy Pittsburgh. Occupy the United States. Occupy the world until the system works for us.”

The rally was not popular with everyone. As one older woman slowly made her way up Forbes Avenue out of Market Square, she turned back and called, “What a bunch of ding-dongs.
Read more: Occupy Pittsburgh march targets corporate headquarters – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_762151.html?_s_icmp=NetworkHeadlines#ixzz1av2yliR6

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