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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh continues to voice disdain for corporate greed

Sunday, November 06, 2011

At least one of the participants from the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment on Mellon Green offered what sounded like conservative advice to about 80 people taking part in a rally Saturday.

"The most important thing we can do is vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8," William Anderson, of Homewood, said. As is the custom at Occupy events, other participants then repeated his words, amplifying the sound via a "human microphone."

Saturday's events marked the three-week anniversary of the Occupy Pittsburgh effort. The rally began Downtown in front of the BNY Mellon Center at Fifth Avenue and Grant Street with sermons, songs and personal testimony from students with high college debt.

The Rev. Thomas Clifton, a retired Presbyterian minister, retold stories from and referred to prophets in the Old Testament. He compared bankers and politicians to kings of Israel, who forgot about the welfare of their people and began to act like and live like Egyptian pharaohs.
Modern leaders will only react to changes in the political wind, he said. He compared the Occupy Pittsburgh participants to the civil rights workers of the 1960s. "People like us at [Selma, Ala.,] changed the direction of the wind," he said. Police attacks on protesters there in 1965 helped build support for a national voting rights act, Rev. Clifton said.

Three "Raging Grannies" -- Edith Bell, Bette McDevitt and Mary King -- sang of "No more bombs and warfare ... we are going to change this world."

David Meieran, of Point Breeze, said his $70,000 in student debt has grown to $110,000 with interest and penalties after he became too ill to work full time. In order to continue to qualify for Medicaid, a federal-state health care plan, he cannot earn more than about $900 per month. "I will never be able to pay off this loan," he said.

The original 40 rally participants in front of the BNY Mellon Center were joined by an equal number of United Steelworkers from around the country, who were in Pittsburgh for meetings at union headquarters a few blocks away.

Staying on the sidewalks and away from traffic on busy Grant, the combined group walked to the Occupy Pittsburgh protest site a block away at Sixth Avenue. BNY Mellon owns and has its offices next to Mellon Green, where protesters have erected dozens of tents and have been eating and sleeping since Oct. 15.

Occupy Pittsburgh is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began in September. Similar camps have been set up in other cities, including Philadelphia, as part of what supporters say is a fight against economic inequality and corporate greed.

Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.

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