A Walk Through Occupy Pittsburgh

18 Oct

It’s a ripe time for protest, friends.  And since I’m in my 20’s, live in a city, and have yet to experience the fiery passion of gathering around a cause, I decided to mosey on over to Occupy Pittsburgh this week, which set up camp this past Friday.  Pittsburgh is one of many cities to join the Occupy Wall Street movement, and since it’s right in my backyard, I didn’t have much of an excuse to ignore it.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday ya’ll.  Not sure what Lollipop Tuesday is? Check out the nifty link at the top.  It’s okay, take your time.  I’ll be here all year.  No really, I will.  I’m posting every day in 2011 cuz that’s how I roll.

But this is my first day posting about a protest, so let’s get to it.

I don’t really know how I feel about the whole Occupy Wall Street thing.   I appreciate the idea of gathering around a cause and I agree that our current system isn’t really working out for folks right now. But the idea of a protest that isn’t really protesting something, I don’t know – specific – is odd to me.  Let’s say everyone joins in and agrees – what then?  Is the plan to start coming up with solutions?  Because I thought that the whole idea is for folks to make demands.  It appears there has been a list released of a few things – albeit somewhat vague and not all measurable – and there has been quite a bit of media buzz surrounding the dichotomy between those protesters who want to move to goals and solutions and those who don’t deem either of those necessary.

I don’t know, I’m new to the whole thing.  So instead of getting all excited about it and going in there demanding that people start talking concretely about what they want, I decided to just go talk to people and see what it was like to be there.  I actually had a lot of questions – like what they do all day when they aren’t marching, meeting, or debating ideas.  I wondered where they got their food from and what the little micro society was like that they set up.

As it turns out, my questions were answered in pictures I took while walking through.  Well, those and by a lengthy discussion with two gentlemen named Earl and Johnathan, who were set up behind the food table, giving me the lay of the land.  You can read more about Pittsburgh’s version of the now-global m0vement/initiative/gathering/whatsit at OccupyPittsburgh.org.  Or if you’d rather just look at the pictures (it’s okay, no one can judge you), scroll away my friends.  Bask in the glory of my 5-year-old camera phone.

A view of the camp from 6th and Grant, downtown. It happens to be conveniently positioned in front of two prominent Pittsburgh companies: BNY Mellon, the target of a picket scheduled for the 17th, and UPMC, a 9 billion dollar Pittsburgh-based healthcare system.

It's a pretty muddy area they've staked out for themselves, which has been remedied by the creation of cardboard sidewalks.

Along the way, I ran into a fellow crafting a sign for himself. Cardboard seems to be the doer-of-all-things here. Hey, it's recyclable and found in abundance; I can dig it.

At the food tent, I found Earl (left) and Johnathan (right), who gave me the lay of the land and welcomed me warmly. Earl loves that he can have conversations with people of all ages, backgrounds, and political perspectives here. Johnathan is from Colorado and on his way to Occupy Wall Street. They both tell me of how readily everyone lends a hand, how all the food in front of them is free for the taking, and how people are just eager to talk to one another about ideas. "This", Earl says, "is true democracy".

Another cardboard creation, advertising the free food and encouraging donations. Baskets of cereal boxes, a plethora of bottled water, a bowl of fresh fruit, and other various foods littered the tent. People bring what they can and eat what they need. Later on I hear one gentleman tell another, "Yeah man! There's free food! I'm never leaving!"

Earl was pretty intent on me including these folks, who he says are mainly responsible for the food tent. Lauren (in the yellow hat), he notes is particularly organized and hardworking, making sure there is order in what may otherwise be a tent of delicious chaos.

A modest dry erase board propped up against a pole features agenda highlights.

On the way out (or in - I suppose it's a matter of perspective), a few tattered boxes lay to collect donations of various kinds.

To learn more about Occupy Pittsburgh, check out OccupyPittsburgh.org.  To learn more about the spot that spawned a global movement, check out OccupyWallSt.org


17 Responses to “A Walk Through Occupy Pittsburgh”

  1. pegoleg October 18, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Interesting expedition – good for you. What did Earl and Johnathon say they wanted to happen? What did you think of it all?


    • Jackie October 19, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

      Earl and Johnathon seem to be huge supporters. The biggest thing they seem to love about it is that it stimulates conversation – and they’re truly touched when folks donate things to the cause. The only thing expressed to me during my time there in terms of specific wants or intentions was that they intend to stick around.

      I understand that folks are upset. I really do. They’ve recently dubbed my generation “The Lost Generation”, in reference to lost opportunity, etc as we graduate from school with lots of debt, little hope for job placement, and end up postponing marriage, a mortgage, and other typical marks of adult growth in favor of moving back in with our parents to save money. I get it. But I’m a big believer of working within the system to create change. There are times when civil disobedience is effective, particularly when it’s aimed directly at the thing you refuse to acknowledge (e.g. sitting where you want on the bus, regardless of skin color). But the demands these folks are making are broad and difficult issues. They label all corporations as “they” and shame the idea of capitalism. But offering up solutions, think tanks, and rallying together for bills and political change would be far more effective than squatting in public places, making a mess, and asking people to support your cause with money, food donations, and clothing. I think they need to get concrete, get organized, and set out with measurable goals.

      I would love someone to research how many of these folks are registered voters, how many have ever written or called a Congressman/woman or how many have ever volunteered for a cause they believe in. My gut reaction when someone throws a fit about the state of things is to ask them what they’re doing about it.


      • pegoleg October 20, 2011 at 11:24 am #

        I think your last line sums it up. A lot of people seem to think that feeling bad, or expressing sympathy with someone, counts the same as action. I often think about Vice President Gore flying around the country in a private jet, giving lectures about what “others” were doing to destroy the environment.

        We DON’T get full points for good intentions. We all know what major thoroughfare uses these in lieu of asphalt.


        • Jackie October 28, 2011 at 1:21 am #

          *puts on cheerleader suit*

          …I’ve been getting an awful lot of use out of that costume lately.


  2. Bridgesburning Chris King October 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I also am not sure what the purpose is other than raising awareness and regardless of how many cities participate am not sure what they can accomplish. I do wish them well though


    • Jackie October 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

      People’s stupidity tends to compound in groups. I worry for what may come of this, but I hope some good does indeed rise from the chaos.


  3. Anita S October 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I haven’t checked out Occupy Dallas since the one day we were there — I was away last week, but I have no excuse now. 🙂 It is interesting to me the way that different cities organize themselves (or don’t…). You know what would be great? A “coffee table” type book with pictures from all the “Occupy” cities — both professional and amateur photos — and interviews, quotes, etc. from those participating. The money made from book sales would, of course, go to the city organizations.


    • Jackie October 19, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

      It’s very interesting to see the pics online from different cities – particularly other countries. I’m so intrigued by this entire thing.


  4. gypsy October 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    Jackie, I love that you went there to get answers and see for yourself.

    I just wrote up something related to the protests on my blog, that I thought might give you some ideas about what is happening, why they are doing this… in case you want to read: http://pcperplexed.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/life-or-death/

    I know people involved, and I have been following alot of the news on this. The reality of what is happening is rather sad and shameful, as many protests tend to be.. but the popularity is often spotlighted by the media if it fits their political agenda, and sadly these protests do. This all is an expansion on Obama & liberals “tax the rich” and “greed” issues with out their understanding what they are saying, or attacking.

    The focus on corporations is very shortsighted by the individuals, and wanting the gov’t to fix the situation is also a problem. The gov’t is what has created the problems in corporations, banking, auto, housing and the overall economy… just like it did with the Great Depression. Many people think the Great Depression related exclusively to banks.. but like with all issues there is a source of the orginal wound. Prohibition and the Railroads were two huge factors that caused the economy to fail, when it got worse the gov’t stepped in further and made the depression worse and longer. We have since been saddled with gov’t strongly tied with unions, and the everlasting issues of a bloated welfare system, that has generations raised on how to use & abuse the system. The more the gov’t gets involved with anything the more problems our entire economy suffers. If the gov’t did not push banks to give loans to people regardless if they qualified, which created the boom.. those unqualified people could not pay for their homes with caused a foreclosure crisis that resulted in the market bust, the gov’t extended the foreclosure process to keep them in their homes.. which flopped and further made home values plummet. The GM bailout is costing tax payers $massively$ every day.

    All these issues all stem from the same source, government involvement.. and it goes back over a century… compounding the problem, and expanding gov’t every time our economy has a hiccup.

    So the demands of the protestors? they want socialism. But they have no clue what that is, so they deny it. They want everyone equally paid regardless of what they do, what their skills are, what they create.. or if they do nothing at all. They want corporations eliminated.. but do they know what that means? Do they realize what corporations are? Do they realize how they came to be? Corporations are the result of successful businesses that made smart choices, and grew, people in turn profit from those corporations by investing making them financially stronger. That is what capitalism is, that is the foundation of what this country was built on. By removing corporations, that removes capitalism, and results in communism/socialism. By removing corporations we remove progress, viability, succss, and any form of advancement, be it technology, medicine, education, or arts.

    Could the protestors live with out corporations? In what I wrote on my blog, I ask could they live as the Amish.. raising their own livestock, shear them, twine the threads to make fabric to make clothing, raising crops to feed themselves & their livestock, creating their tools, building their shelter… that is an example of an equal society where no on achieves more, and everyone shares, everyone contributes. They don’t accept anything from the outside world, they are self sufficient and self sustaining.. they do not advance in technology, they do not pursue anything but survival. (I grew up on the edge of an Amish town.. and I am sure you are familiar with some of them since you live near/in Pittsburgh, I grew up outside of York PA).

    Sorry for the long babble, again thank you for visiting one of these in person.. and I hope I was able to offer something here too.


    • gypsy October 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

      PS.. just spotted an item on what the protests will be costing all of us.
      I wanted to add this, because Jackie you had noted about their reuse of items like cardboard.


      Most protests leave a ton of trash behind..plus the additional police needs due to protestors.

      “In New York City, government officials estimate the month-long siege of Zuccotti Park has now imposed $3.2 million in overtime police costs on the public…. Occupiers have blocked traffic, assaulted an officer and pitched illegal tents. Merchants in the area have been hurt as the riff-raff deter customers…. ”


      “Many of these occupiers are primarily occupied as paid rent-a-mobsters for unions, left-wing think tanks and the radical Working Families Party. While one collective hand soaks the taxpayers, the other hand is busy soliciting free stuff. Occupy Los Angeles activists took to Skype on their laptops to solicit donations of iPhones and iPads…
      …These are not principled advocates of fiscal responsibility. They are professional freeloaders.”


      “Their T-shirts and speeches glorify Marxist radicals Che Guevara, Emiliano Zapata and Chairman Mao. They lionize convicted death row cop killer Troy Davis and WikiLeaks collaborator Bradley Manning. They condemn “Nazi Bankers,” Jews, Fox News, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker, the Koch family and the New York Police Department (“Pigs!”). They promote the illegal alien DREAM Act and 9/11 Trutherism.They flash peace signs while celebrity supporter Roseanne Barr calls for beheading financial industry workers and fellow marchers call explicitly for “violent revolution” or for Obama to “Send SEAL Team 6” to Wall Street.”

      Then there is in California, where porta potties were donated to their cause, but the protestors quickly filled them up, and cried out for someone to change them.. err empty their potties.

      This is just a chip off the story block.. and hopefully gives better insight into what the protestors are…. by their actions they speak volumes.


    • Jackie October 19, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

      Don’t apologize – it’s not babble. I read everything you shared, including links. I truly appreciate your contribution 🙂


  5. Jules October 18, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    Occupy protest are not going to win over any change. They need to realize that the mass media, pawns of the corporate machine, is very much in the business to see them fail. Their first agenda should be gaining control over the most influential sources of media.

    Let me know when they start burning buildings…


    • Jackie October 19, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

      I’m intrigued to see where this all goes. Especially with that long winter ahead. I have terrible visions of awful sicknesses followed by blaming the government. I’ll rage. Rage, I say.


  6. Ro October 20, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Even if there is no real cause to speak of, I actually kind of love that people are like “dude, we’re all tired of getting trampled on, let’s make some noise about it.” At the very least it shows that people are starting to be less apathedic, which is awesome. The masses banding together while the government is so polorized is encouraging, I think. I don’t know. That’s just me. 🙂


    • Jackie October 28, 2011 at 1:25 am #

      Sure, sure. Fair enough. I think there are good and bad aspects of it – ideally we would learn from both sides and meet in the middle or close to, but hey – that’s probably not realistic 😉


  7. lovetrustlive May 19, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

    I am really hoping you are a fellow Pittsburgh-er! If so, my journey to find one on WordPress has finally come to an end! So glad to have stumbled upon your blog 🙂


    • Jackie September 3, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

      Indeed I am! It certainly can’t be that hard? There are so many bloggers who blog about Pittsburgh that surely one must be on WordPress! But regardless thanks for dropping by and sorry for my hermity delay


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