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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pittsburgh occupiers settle in

Posted By on Sat, Oct 15, 2011 at 11:03 PM

Protestors at the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment are hunkering down after a long day of marching and rallying.

As of 7:30 p.m., about 100 folks were milling around on Mellon Green, and we counted about 30 tents/encampment sites made of tarps and cardboard boxes. While more than a dozen police vehicles were parked along Ross Street late this afternoon, police presence seems to have dissipated since. As we noted earlier today, police lieutenant Ed Trapp got on the protestor's bullhorn to announce that "As long as no one damages the property, BNY Mellon says it's fine if you stay here."

Protestors have said they plan to stay there indefinitely.

Tonight people were standing around in groups, some laying on their tarps. One man played the guitar while another played a tin whistle. Another group of about 30, meanwhile, stood on the corner of Grant Street and Sixth yelling "We are! The 99%" and pumping their fists at passing vehicles, some of which honked back.

Earlier this evening, the movement held a General Assembly meeting to lay out some rules and procedures for the encampment. Roughly 200 people were in attendance, and in addition to establishing some groundwork for the encampment, they agreed to participate in some other actions later this week.

Among the items the occupation came to consensus on:

1. Picketing BNY Mellon, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

2. Holding twice-weekly actions to picket other Downtown financial institutions during the lunch our. Among those on the list: UPMC, Merrill Lynch, Education Management Corporation, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and Robert Casey, and the offices of Gov. Tom Corbett.

3. Adopting a "good neighbor policy" that's been used by the Occupy Wall Street movement. The policy stipulates, among other things: no drugs or alcohol at Mellon Green or any action or rally; zero tolerance for destruction of public and private property; respect for health and sanitation policies of the places being occupied; respect for working hours; and zero tolerance of verbal abuse toward anyone.

4. Appointing "night guards" to patrol the encampment over night.

5. Hold another General Assembly meeting Sunday at noon.

The encampment has a medical tent and food table, with cases of water sporadically laid out over the green near the tents. One occupier was walking around handing out garbage bags to collect trash. Others were laying down cardboard boxes to create a walkway to prevent the already-soggy grass from becoming more trodden.

Those camping out are using local restaurants or the Greyhound Station for restrooms. Members of SEIU and Healthcare PA are also walking campers to their offices Downtown every hour.

Pitching his tent on one corner near the U.S. Steel Building was Josh Zorich, 27, of Forest Hills. Some liberal protests, he notes, "are so cliché and easily mocked." But he says the Occupy movement has managed to develop staying power. "Usually it's just we meet, we march and go home. This has resonated because it has longevity."

Zorich takes issue with the tax breaks that are offered to corporations. "Currently the Republican Party's only solution has been deregulations and tax breaks," he says. "Then tack on bail-outs, and no one's being prosecuted. There's no corrective action taken."

Helping Zorich with his tent was a man who identified himself only as "T-Bone" who lives Downtown. He's currently unemployed after being laid off when Comcast "closed down my department and moved the call center to India."

"I'm here just for the whole cause," he says as he helped attach a rain tarp to Zorich's grey tent. "The government keeps cutting programs and taxing us more. But the corporations? They don't have to cut anything."

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