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.”
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.