Dear Occupy Pittsburgh:

So I’ve avoided talking about Occupy Pittsburgh because, as I’ve said, your volcano is a little too burny for me.

But the hell with it. It’s Christmas!

Look, I have nothing against the original actual Occupy protesters’ issues. The rich getting rich off of the poor. The rich getting richer while the poor get poorer. Workers rights in the face of shrinking wages while the CEOs take giant bonuses. Corporate greed.  Worthy issues worthy of protest.

You originally started as an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street and chose to target Bank of New York Mellon’s alleged practice of skimming public pensions illegally. You occupied BNYM’s private property and what started as a home base for a decent number of the 99% with their eyes on one issue, has become a campground for a smorgasbord of your various pet issues — everything from workers’ rights to ending the Iraq War to paper balloting and now, transit cuts.

“Education over incarceration!” “Eat the Rich!” “Dear Capitalism. It’s not you. It’s us. Just kidding. It’s you.”

Now you’re flying the American flag upside down and the banner on the front of Mellon Green, which you “seized” and renamed The People’s Park, reads, “Go ahead. This park is ours. Try us.”

[giant eyeroll]

Look, you’re dangerously close to overstaying your welcome and hell, now that I’ve seen a picture of the muddy park, I’m going to go right ahead and say, “You’ve overstayed your welcome.”

Not just your welcome by BNYM, who allowed you to camp on their property for two months now, but you’ve overstayed your welcome with many regular Burghers who are also part of the 99%. Many of the people you’re fighting for are ready for you to pack it in, regroup, and try a new tactic.

It’s not just that your site is an eyesore, it’s that you have no message. No central issue. No organization of purpose. Sure you’ve winterized your camp and you’re lashing out at BNYM for trying to evict you from their property. Sure you’ve got your weatherization committee and your Legal Working Group and your menstruation tent, all in an effort to give an outward sense of unity and legitimacy to what is more and more evidently a quilt that has been torn apart at the seams, leaving random squares here and there, no longer fitting together to serve any purpose.

BNYM is not listening. Your message has become watered down by extraneous issues. Where will you move onto after you’ve protested Target’s hiring practices and protested the transit cuts?

Protests work best when the people are passionate. It’s hard to stay passionate month after month. This is evident in your dwindling numbers.

Protests work best when the demands are specific, the results are actually obtainable, and the issues are narrow and clear. “EAT THE RICH” is not a specific demand or a definable issue unless you’re an anarchist cannibal.

Protests work best when you have and maintain the support of the people. I fear you’re losing that, if you haven’t already.

You can be a useful quilt again, but you’ve got to go home and start sewing.

Yours,

Me.

 





117 Comments


  1. Yinzer
    December 19, 2011 8:10 pm

    Steelman says: “If you think that the occupiers are going to eliminate corporate greed, you are naive about human nature.” Why do you guys keep changing the subject? It has nothing to do with human nature. The question is why does the law allow, for example, the owners of US Steel Bldg to cheat the public out of $10 million through an “89/11 transaction” loophole? Why does the tax code permit billion dollar corporations to pay no federal taxes? We’re taking about a corrupt system. Why aren’t you?



  2. Sam's Dog
    December 19, 2011 8:18 pm

    Spoon, I think Sarah McLaclan is too busy with endangered animals to write any new material. Also, TITS UP would be another good band name.
    While I agree with the Occupy folks’ opinion that the deck has been stacked against most of us for quite a while, trespassing probably isn’t going to change anything. Work very hard for the candidate of your choosing, run for office, bitch like hell to all of your elected officials might gain your movement a little more respect.



  3. Sam's Dog
    December 19, 2011 8:26 pm

    Oops, sorry for the poor sentence structure, the comment went out before I had a chance to proofread.



  4. Steelman
    December 19, 2011 8:41 pm

    @ Yinzer

    Whose changing the subject? The comment was made that occupiers were calling out corporate greed. Greed has always existed and always will and protests are not going to eliminate it.

    Don’t blame the corporations for a tax code the politicians created. Instead of complaining about Mellon Bank or Target, why don’t you take your tents to DC and present your grievances to Congress? You might get better results.



  5. Chris L
    December 19, 2011 9:06 pm

    Steelman–good point. The government seems to be getting a free pass from the occupy crowd. I have seen complaints about the banks taking money from the bailout but it is common knowledge that the government made a good many banks take money they didn’t want in order to bail out those deemed “too big to fail.” Go down to Barney Frank’s office or Christopher Dodd’s office instead of BNY Mellon



  6. bucdaddy
    December 19, 2011 9:36 pm

    “They got out from behind their blogs and their snark and put their bodies where their beliefs are. They’re evolving, planning, organizing, and doing the best they can to challenge and call out the corporate greed that has crippled regular folks’ ability to make it in America.”

    Ironically, you don’t mention “voting.” And few of the commenters, if any, have, which is really sorry.

    You have in your arsenal of tools against your perceived injustices the greatest weapon humankind has ever invented: The ballot. Can we take a survey of Occupiers and ask how many of them have ever used it? And not just in those clamorous presidential elections but in elections for mayors and councils and commissions — you know, those local offices for which few people vote but where most of the actual work of governing gets done.

    You will never effect change until you develop your own candidates, persuade voters that your platform is worthy, get out the vote to get those candidates elected and then support their efforts with letters and attendance at public meetings.

    Seems to me the Occupiers want to skip all that dirty work and demand … I don’t know what, an end to all inequality and World Peace while you’re at it, like you’re all Miss America candidates or something. You’d get much more mileage out of acting like POLITICAL candidates, but like most worthwhile work, that stuff is hard. You can’t just put on a swim suit (parka) or an evening gown (canvas tent) and stroll a runway (public park) to get what you want in this world.

    I live in a small town with a major-sized university, 27,000 or so students who could, if they chose to do so, pretty easily run for and elect city council candidates in at least two or three wards, maybe more, and effectively run the city, as a starter project. Usually it would take just a few hundred votes, because city council elections here historically attract 10 or 20 percent of the voters. The college kids and other young people never do that, of course, because the truth is, your movement is minuscule compared to the number of young people who would rather drink beer and fuck around than think about how to build a better future 20 years down the road … another process the Occupiers, it seems to me, are trying to shortcut.

    This is how it works. This is what you can do. Sitting in a park? Meh. That doesn’t impress me. Sorry.

    Like at the end of the movie “Woodstock,” when the camera crew asks the old guy what he thinks of the festival and he says, “I’ll tell you what I think: It’s a shitty mess.”



  7. Ed
    December 19, 2011 10:16 pm

    So I was watching this back and forth, some people defending the occupiers, some saying the occupiers should go home, take a bath and get a job (how does it feel to echo Newt Gingrich?). I’ve come to realize that part of the reason for the occupy movements is that the regular political and economic system no longer works for many people. I mean, first of all, kids with college degrees getting jobs should be no surprise. I mean, you do know the unemployment for people with degrees is 4.5%. It’s the people with no degree, or more so no high school degree that are unemployed in double digits. Now maybe you want to blame them for not getting a degree, but maybe the public schools in their neighborhood were barely functional. Maybe it is still possible to work your way through community college, but I really have to ask what part time job can pay Pitt’s what, fifteen thousand, not to mention CMU’s forty thousand.

    But more than that, ordinary people have no voice in the political system any more. Sending a letter to your congressman is better than nothing, but it is a sad joke to think that it matches the power of corporate and the 1%’s money. I can see now that the occupy movements are the only way to get mass public attention. And mass public attention is the only thing that will match the power of the 1%.

    Now, if you want to call the occupy people stupid, that is your right as an American (until you give it away to the 1%). And maybe it is true that occupying parks is more of a blunt instrument than a clever tactic. But I think it is stupid to doubt the sincerity of the occupiers, a sincerity demonstrated all the more by those willing to brave the cold. That they do not want to just be fair weather patriots says something to me.

    What’s a shame, to me, is that so many Pittsburghers are willing to throw labor under the bus, are willing to do the bidding of the 1 percent’ers and dismiss the occupiers as entitled, Marxists, communists, anarchists, dirty, what have you. I think we have to say that whatever else the occupiers are, they are trying to help those who have no other voice.



  8. eringill9
    December 19, 2011 11:11 pm

    Virginia, my apologies re: the menstration tent. Just read Bram’s explanation, never dreamed that would be a real thing (even if short-lived).

    Agreed that they, along with everyone else, need to vote. Protests can change the conversation, voting changes our representation. Part of the problem, though, that I think Occupy has been working to highlight is the corrupting influence of corporate money in our government. That’s why they’ve taken their message directly to corporate doorsteps.

    IMO, working, volunteering, ‘doing your part’ are all a heck of a lot more comfortable than what the occupiers are doing across the country. I wish them well, and I hope they do start focusing on the impact they can have at the polls.



  9. Bram R
    December 20, 2011 12:11 am

    I know, this post is old news, but I just discovered these perspectives out there on City-Data:

    http://www.city-data.com/forum/pittsburgh/1446362-my-visit-today-occupy-pittsburgh.html

    One comment I want to make is in response to, “They’re not going to change anything” and “They’re not going to change anyone’s minds.” A lot of this seems to be about (I may be a participant, but I’m no expert!) SEEMS to be about inspiring and opening the imaginations of people who already agree — imbuing them with focus, a symbol, and well, what we Hannukah enthusiasts call chutzpah.

    Jack Shea addresses this poetically:

    http://m.post-gazette.com/opinion/letters/letters-to-the-editor-1191913?p=4



  10. Kathy
    December 20, 2011 10:07 am

    I know this comment is late to the party, but as someone who sits up in the USX Tower and looks on these people every day, I would support them much more did I not seem them yelling about “corporate greed” as they drink from their Starbucks cups and Coca Cola bottles, go across the street to Bruegger’s for some free wi-fi to use their Apple computers, set up a bank account at one of those “corporate evil-doers,” etc. It’s a little like talking out of both sides of your mouth….



  11. unsatisfied
    December 20, 2011 1:12 pm

    @bucdaddy — I vote. but, what good does that do when these politicians (every one of them) does nothing but toe the party line? that, as we can see time and again, gets nothing done. payroll tax, anyone?

    ———–

    in reference to the tax loopholes — how many times do we hear these politicians say that they want to eliminate them? if that is the case, then why are they still there?



  12. Yinzer
    December 20, 2011 9:11 pm

    Excuse me, but what is with the inane comments like Kathy – “I would support them much more did I not seem them yelling about “corporate greed” as they drink from their Starbucks cups and Coca Cola bottles, go across the street to Bruegger’s for some free wi-fi to use their Apple computers . . .” When did Occupy ever reject technology or modernism? We’re not a “back to nature” movement. Can’t you distinguish between corporate greed and corruption – and consumerism?

    Just as an example, tomorrow we will be having an action in front of the US Steel Tower – protesting the loophole that Mark Karasick and his group are using to cheat us out of $10 million in realty transfer taxes ($2.5 million would go to our schools, $5 million to our city, and $2.5 million to the state — all of whom desperately need that money). We will mention, in contrast, that the people who purchased the PPG Tower paid their realty transfer taxes. Not everyone is corrupt. Unfortunately we now have a system where the corrupt are considered “good businessmen.”

    Perhaps you have no eye for nuance.



  13. dash66
    December 20, 2011 9:37 pm

    Wow, you claim you are representing the 99%, the poor, the unemployed, yet you are criticising the tax loopholes that were created to allow big business to come in and bring JOBS!! Guess what, if Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the US didn’t offer these tax breaks, businesses would go elsewhere; to somewhere that they could get those breaks. Trust me, I love Pittsburgh, but its not so great that these businesses that are going come to our city bringing thousands of jobs without incentives like tax breaks. So if you cut these tax breaks, there is going to be even higher unemployment in the region. Way to look out for the little guy.



  14. dash66
    December 20, 2011 9:44 pm

    Oh, and each of those jobs creates tapayers who put in thousands of dollars into the state and local government through sales, income and proporty taxes.



  15. Yinzer
    December 20, 2011 9:45 pm

    Show me one, just one job that was created when real estate speculators in New York bought the US Steel Bldg? Is this the new religion – give billionaires even more money on the belief that jobs spring forth? Are you suggesting that the people who bought the PPG Tower created less jobs because they paid their taxes? How stupid can you be?

    Ten million dollars going to our schools, city and state will create jobs. Keeping in the pockets or rich dudes in NYC . . . Seriously!



  16. dash66
    December 20, 2011 10:00 pm

    Just one? How about the property managers, the janitors, the maintainence workers… Need me to go on?



  17. empirechick
    December 21, 2011 12:28 am

    Sorry Dash, those weren’t created, they already existed. As far as I can tell, the US Steel building was already occupied and staffed BEFORE it was recently purchased. No new jobs, no new rents, just speculators making money. I’m not against capitalism, but please don’t act like real estate speculators do the common man any favors.