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Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh and other activists come calling at Toomey's office

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Participants in the Occupy Pittsburgh movement ventured out from their Mellon Green encampment and to protest outside Sen. Pat Toomey's office today, demanding he "[s]top working for Wall Street and start working for us."

The Occupy campers joined One Pittsburgh and its offshoot action, the People's Lobby, in front of Toomey's Station Square office building at noon today. There, they denounced the Republican Senator's vote against the American Jobs Act. The action was among those that Occupy participants consented to supporting this week. They also plan to picket BNY Mellon -- which owns the Mellon Green site they are camping on -- this Wednesday.

The roughly three dozen activists on hand were joined by county councilor Amanda Green. "A lot of people think of me as an elected official, but that's just a part-time job," she said into the bullhorn. "I've got a full-time job. I've got bills to pay. I've got student loans. I understand what it's like to not be able to make ends meet."

Green made an impassioned speech from below Toomey's office window. "You need to be able to explain how, at almost 9 percent unemployment rate in this county, you vote 'no' on the [American Jobs Act]," she said. "It's unacceptable and ridiculous to me."

Toomey, protesters say, hasn't offered much of a response to their concerns. "At every meeting, his staff leads us nowhere," says Corey Buckner, a 24-year-old Garfield resident and member of One Pittsburgh.

Toomey has issued this statement on the ACA vote:

President Obama's latest stimulus bill contains hundreds of billions of dollars in increased spending and more tax hikes, which won't create jobs any more than his last stimulus bill did. With the unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, we do not have time to waste on political games and big tax increases that will only make our economy weaker for all Americans

Instead, I support a real jobs plan, which will reduce burdensome regulations that are preventing businesses from hiring; ratify three pending free trade agreements that will increase Pennsylvania's exports; simplify and reduce business and individual tax rates to encourage job-creating business expansions; and get our federal deficits under control, among other pro-growth measures. This plan will actually create jobs.

The protesters, meanwhile, called for Toomey's impeachment for his allegiance to corporations and big banks. And while One Pittsburgh and the People's Lobby aren't directly part of the Occupy Pittsburgh movement, or vice versa, activists like Buckner say the movements go hand-in-hand. "We're all here for the same thing," he said. "We want what Americans have been promised people forever: freedom and the ability to work."

After protesting for about 45 minutes, the group headed back across the Smithfield Bridge and into Downtown, shouting rants against Toomey and singing: "Everywhere we go, people want to know who we are," one lyric went. "So we tell them: We are the 99!"

Onlookers seemed mostly amused or inquisitive. One man yelled, as he flicked his cigarette in the trash, "This is what you get for voting against Arlen Specter, you dumbasses!" Another man, walking behind the protest, asked, "Are they shouting against Toomey?"

Told they were, he smiled. "I can agree with that."

Meanwhile, Downtown workers have been scoping out the Mellon Green encampment that has suddenly appeared amidst the city's skyscrapers. Some workers milled around the encampment during the morning rush and lunch hour, reading signs posted on the fence around the parklet's fountain.

"Keep up the good work!" one woman in a business suit yelled as she passed by on Grant. Another man sidled up to protestor Steve Cooper and said, "Ok, what do I need to know?"

Not everyone was receptive to the message: Occupiers have been keeping a tally of how many times a passerby instructs them to "get a job!" -- and that number is now in the dozens.

But as camper Doug Placais, 27, of the city's Allentown neighborhood puts it: "For every one person who walks by and yells 'get a job' there's been a positive honk or someone yelling in support."

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