What Fresh Hell Is This?

October 14, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh Update

From Mackenzie Carpenter at the P-G:
City officials have granted a permit to Occupy Pittsburgh organizers for a 2-mile march Saturday beginning at Freedom Corner in the Hill District and ending at Market Square with a "kickoff rally" from 1:15 to 3 p.m.

But the protest won't end there.

At 4 p.m., marchers will head to Mellon Green, a small park owned by neighboring BNY Mellon, to set up camp -- possibly for the long haul, said Nathaniel Glosser, a spokesman for Occupy Pittsburgh.
Occupy Pittsburgh organizers argued in a news release issued Thursday that any encampment at Mellon Green -- at Sixth Avenue and Grant Street, Downtown -- was legal because of "the Urban Open Space section of the Golden Triangle ordinance of the city code, which mandates privately owned plazas and parks be 'open without restriction to the general public.' "

That includes expression of First Amendment rights, organizers contended, and an ordinance banning overnight camping in city parks does not apply to Mellon Green because it's not city property.

Dan Regan, the city's solicitor, confirmed that a permit had been issued to the protesters but declined to comment on planned police response once the protesters arrive at Mellon Green.
Bill Vidonic of the Trib has more:
Organizers believe part of the City Code allows an encampment on the private property. Lawyers and police disputed that.

Sara Rose, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said BNY Mellon "can always let them camp there, but I'm not sure (the code) requires them to allow that." Deputy police Chief Paul Donaldson said the city does not permit camping in parks or on private property without the owner's consent.

"We are working with the Pittsburgh police to ensure the safety of our property," said BNY Mellon spokesman Ron Gruendl.

Nathaniel Glosser, an Occupy Pittsburgh organizer, said the encampment "may end up being an act of civil disobedience. But it will be an orderly and nonviolent act if it turns out that way."
And Chris Potter's got some more about Mellon Green the City Code:
And Mellon, ultimately, will decide whether the protesters are allowed to stay or not.

"We met with city officials this morning," says ACLU attorney Sara Rose. "The city has said they can't issue a permit for the encampment because it isn't city property. It's owned by Mellon, so it's going to be up to them if the [occupiers] can stay." On the other hand, she adds, that means "The police aren't going to kick them off unless Mellon asks."
In the meantime, protesters are citing a provision in the city's zoning code which governs "urban open spaces." These are spaces that are essentially open to the public, though they have private owners. Section 910.01.C.3 ("Urban Open Space Requirements") of the code includes the following provision:

The Urban Open Space shall be open without restriction to the general public at least during business hours normal to the area in which it is located and during periods of heavy pedestrian movement in the area.

Sounds great, but as everyone knows, in Downtown, "business hours normal to the area" pretty much wrap up at 5:01 Friday afternoon. Moreover, the owners of these places have previously cleared out citizens with much less cause.
That last link heads you to a story at the P-G describing some recent restrictions on some private property's public access.

Potter's got some more from Sara Rose:
In general, the ACLU's Rose says, the code's language "would probably make it hard for Mellon to prevent Occupy Pittsburgh participants from passing through the park. They'd have the same right to be there as any other pedestrian. But I think Mellon could keep people from camping there. I think it would be hard to argue that they have a First Amendment right to camp there."

Rose says that if Mellon did object to the protesters' presence, "the police would give them time to leave, and probably charge anyone still left with defiant trespass." She noted that Occupy Pittsburgh had lined up a fallback location -- Monumental Baptist Church on the Hill District's Wylie Avenue.
Meanwhile, Occupy Pittsburgh's posted a "Who We Are" statement at their website:
As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
Whoever wrote this obviously had an eye towards Jefferson's socialist/anarchist/dirty hippie screed from early Summer of 1776 because what follows is a list of grievances. Where Jefferson starts his greivances against King George with "He has refused his Assent to Laws...", Occupy Pittsburgh goes with:
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
And so on. You really should do yourself a favor and read it so that the next time someone says "but they don't have a clear set of complaints" you can rattle off a few.  Like this one:
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
Or this one:
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
Or these:
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.
And finally:
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
That's what they're protesting.

1 comment:

Gloria said...

From the OccupyPgh group for tomorrow's activities:
If you are arrested at an Occupy Event, call the National Lawyers Guild: (267) 702-4654
WRITE their # in PERMANENT marker somewhere concealed on your body, protected from the elements. Do NOT assume you will be able to retrieve the # from a phone or a notebook. It is very likely you will be stripped of all your belongings