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by RFShunt

Trojan Horses, Rick-Rolls and Multi-Angle Livestreaming as Pgh Awaits Eviction

11:57 pm in Uncategorized by RFShunt


The Occupy Pittsburgh encampment is a site of uneasy anticipation as people have gathered to support the occupation during what is probably its last hours at People’s Park (formerly Mellon Green). The day of waiting produced a great deal that is metaphorical of this ad hoc social movement.

Occupiers have used wooden pallets that formerly functioned as platforms for tents and walkways to construct a symbolic Trojan horse. No word on whether BNY/Mellon plans to take it inside the gates to their neighboring tower.

The arrival of police escorting workmen tasked with reassembling fencing that had been taken apart sparked the promised rick-rolling with attendant dancing, creating a festive break in what is becoming a wary vigil.

Local television media have been taping all day, with some reporters adopting an adversarial and dismissive tone – unaware that multi-camera, multi-angle livestreaming done by the occupation itself provided far more extensive and immediate coverage. This is perhaps the most symbolic of the many symbols of this occupation – the lack of awareness by the media that considers itself mainstream of the future that may render it obsolete.

UPDATE: 11:00 A.M. 2/7/12
BNY/MELLON has closed People’s Park and has posted a “No Trespassing” notice. No word from the Allegheny Country Sheriff.

by RFShunt

A Tale of Two Homewoods: Martin Luther King Day in Pittsburgh

12:20 pm in Uncategorized by RFShunt

We Are All Witnesses
On a cold January night two years ago, Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old honor student and viola player at Pittsburgh’s Creative and Performing Arts High School , left his home on Tioga Street to walk the 30 yards to his grandmother’s house. He intended to spend the evening with her as he often did. He never got to his Grandmother’s door. En route, three undercover police officers in an unmarked car saw him and felt that he was behaving suspiciously. Before the evening ended, Jordan Miles was arrested and received injuries serious enough to require hospitalization and from which he is still recovering.

This Monday, Martin Luther King day, a rally and march was held to honor the day and show support for Jordan Miles and his family. The event was attended by a wide range of organizations, including Alliance for Police Accountability, One Pittsburgh, NAACP, One Hood, Occupy Pgh, Kuumba, Occupy the Hood, Black Political Empowerment Project(B-PEP), African American Leadership Association(AALA) and others.

There are two accounts of what happened that night: the police officers’ and Jordan Miles’. Two accounts that are completely different, completely irreconcilable, and completely appalling to the residents of this Pittsburgh neighborhood.

The police officers say they noticed a bulge in Mr Miles’ jacket pocket, which they felt might be a weapon, identified themselves as police and then pursued Mr Miles when he ran, first tasering him and when that was unsuccessful, struck him multiple times until he was subdued. The supposed weapon, police say, later turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew.

Jordan Miles says that they did not identify themselves as police officers, but rather demanded to know where the money, drugs or guns were. Mr Miles said he was afraid that he was about to be robbed and that is why he ran. He also says he was not in possession of a bottle of soda, or anything else.

What is not in dispute is that Jordan Miles was beaten severely enough to be hospitalized, had a large handful of his hair torn out, and later had any charges against him dropped.

Both Jordan Miles and the three police officers have taken and passed polygraph lie-detector tests. Both police and Mr. Miles have had their accounts supported by expert witnesses. Pittsburgh District Attorney, Stephen Zappala has declined to bring charges against the police officers and the U.S. Attorney’s offices has decided not to look into the case. Read the rest of this entry →

by RFShunt

OccuCuddle Puddle: Good Thing or Bad Thing? – Occupy Pgh Eviction Hearing Concludes

8:10 pm in Uncategorized by RFShunt

Paul O'Hanlon and Helen Gerhardt discuss the BNY/Mellon Hearing - photo: 'Dmitri' Beljan used by permission
Paul O’Hanlon and Helen Gerhardt discuss the BNY/Mellon Hearing – photo: ‘Dmitri’ Beljan used by permission

Arguments concluded today in the hearing to determine whether or not Bank of New York/Mellon should get an emergency injunction to immediately evict Occupy Pittsburgh from property owned by the bank but zoned as open public space. The outcome will not be known for at least two weeks.

Proceedings at times occupied unusual ground of their own – with Rick Astley rolling into the testimony and plaintiffs’ high-powered attorneys extensively quoting snarky tweets and requesting the definition of an “OccuCuddle Puddle”

A better reporter than I would make you wait for the details of the above incidents while he first outlined the pertinent points of the case. But I assume, gentle reader, that you are as lacking in impulse control as I am, so let’s get straight to the surreality, shall we.

The day’s first witness was a young but very self-possessed man named Mike Lawson. BNY’s lead attorney, during cross-examination, pressed him rather hard on questions of how prepared and functional a leaderless organization could be.

“Is Occupy Pittsburgh leaderless?” (Yes and no, everyone is a leader.) “Who does BNY go to with concerns?” (Anyone.) Who sets the rules? (The General Assembly) Have people been removed for rule-breaking? (Yes.) Have the gone peaceably? (Yes.) Does the GA have documented plans for those who won’t? (No, the group de-escalates the sitution.) Are you content to just not plan for this? (Yes.)

The line of questioning ended with this: “Is there any plan for handling the arrival of police to evict the camp” (Yes, the plan is to sing ‘Never gonna give you up’ by Rick Astley.)

BNY/Mellon’s elderly and impeccibly-dressed lead counsel then surprised the courtroom by asking “That is known as being ‘Rick-rolled’ is it not?” Somewhere, the ghost of Eugene Ionesco smiled contentedly to itself.

The cross-examination of the second witness, Don Carpenter, a veteran of Afghanistan, relied heavily on his twitter activity, meticulously documented by BNY’s phalanx of lawyers. (I counted at least 10.) This line of questioning was introduced early on. Trust me, you have not lived until you’ve heard a corporate attorney in a suit worth more than the bluebook value of your car intone the words: “Do you tweet”

Much was made of Mr Carpenter’s dark humor in those tweets as he described the arrest of an acquaintance, an incident (unrelated to Occupy Pittsbugh) involving New Year’s eve property damage and his repeated attempts to get a particularly stone-faced BNY security man to smile.

The BNY lawyer concluded his questioning by reading from a tweet that mentioned the OccuCuddle Puddle.

“i know this is not relevant, but I just have to ask – what is an OccuCuddle Puddle?”

Mr Carpenter went on to describe the phenomenon of people gathering in one tent on cold evenings to talk and laugh and keep each other warm – then eventually falling asleep.

“The OccuCuddle Puddle, is that a good thing or a bad thing?” asked the lawyer.

Oooo, Oooo, pick me. I have an answer. It might be the best thing in court all day.

There’s so much more. The detailed inquiry into a hookah in a BNY photo and all possible uses it could have, the exact purpose of a much talked about turkey fryer – but reluctantly it is now time to leave the realm of Rod Serling and go on to the case itself.

A little background. The park, Mellon Green, where the occupiers have their tents, is zoned as “Open Public Space.” This type of designation is quite old in Pittsburgh, dating back to the post-WWII “renaissance” of the city. Significant downtown property owners are often required to provide such openly accessible and public areas. For the first few weeks, BNY/Mellon offered no objection to the occupation.

This began to change in early November as they presented a list of guidelines, which, among other things, prohibited heaters, cook stoves and fuels. Although there is some dispute as to the timeliness of it, those guidelines appear to have been met. And BNY/Mellon gave no indication at the time that they were unhappy with the compliance to those guidelines Then, on December 9, the bank posted a notice insisting that tents and other gear be removed and occupiers vacate.

BNY/Mellon is asking for an injunction to have an eviction occur immediately, before a full trial. Because of the public nature of the green, they cannot do this based on trespassing. Instead, they have the burden of proving several things. Among them are: irreparable harm being done; activities that are against the public’s interest; a case with such strong merit that it can bypass the normal trial; or an unacceptable change to the status quo of the park.

A lot of the questioning by BNY revolved around the implication that occupiers were ill-prepared to reside in the park, especially with the onset of cold weather. Considerable time was spent on the response to the November guidelines. Much of the testimony looked into the camp’s procedures and habits, and even overall philosophy – even getting into the question of what constituted theft. A claim that security guards had seen and videotaped a fire in a 55 gallon drum resulted in the plaintiffs’ attorneys not being able to produce the videotape

It’s worth noting that Firedoglake’s own Occupy Supply helped Occupy Pittsburgh make the case that adequate preparation and planning had in fact happened. Records of cold weather gear delivered to the occupation by Occupy Supply were entered as evidence and brought up in witness’s testimony.

The hearing ended with an interesting turn of events concerning whether or not the occupation interfered with normal operations of the park, with the aforementioned status quo. This came from the testimony of the final witness, attorney Paul O’Hanlon, who filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief.

Mr O’Hanlon, who is disabled, co-chairs an organization called the “City-County Task Force on Disabilities” and is also a supporter of Occupy Pittsburgh. Part of BNY/Mellon’s case is that they have closed the park each winter because of concerns over snow and ice, and the occupation is prohibiting them from continuing this precedent. However, as Mr O’Hanlon discovered and will apparently put in his brief, the bank may have been violating the zoning requirement. The only part of the park that remains open in winter is a narrow passageway between the green area of the park and the BNY/Mellon tower. This space is comprised of 3 flights of concrete steps and is inaccessible to the disabled.

Aattorneys for the bank offered to meet with Mr O’Hanlon to address his concerns as soon as possible.

The judge hearing the case, Christine Ward, adjourned the court but not before making the statement that it was a privilege for her to hear such a case, which involved what she view as important issues. She also took pains to praise the demeanor of the attorneys and witnesses on all sides.

Members of the legal team of Occupy Pittsburgh were pleased with the testimony of their witnesses. They also felt confident BNY/Mellon had likely failed to meet the burden of proof needed for the temporary injunction.

Both sides will now await the transcripts from the two days of hearings (and, boy howdy, do I want to get my own copy of that) They then have two weeks to file final briefs at which point Judge Ward will make her determination on whether to grant the injunction for an immediate eviction.

Stay tuned.

by RFShunt

Occupy Pittsburgh Calls for Day of Solidarity Tuesday

6:19 pm in Uncategorized by RFShunt

Occupy Pittsburgh Solidarity Poster

Occupy Pittsburgh has issued a statement calling for a day of solidarity and action this Tuesday, Jan 10 to coincide with the first day of a court hearing of a lawsuit brought against them by Bank of New York/Mellon. The suit calls for their eviction from the space formerly called Mellon Green, now dubbed by the occupation as People’s Park.

The Pittsburgh occupiers are asking supporters to hold non-violent demonstrations against BNY/Mellon around the world, including the bank’s main headquarters at their iconic One Wall Street, New York address. BNY/Mellon has offices across America and the world (200kB pdf) Supporters who are unable to attend demonstrations are being asked to send protest letters to BNY/Mellon headquarters with a return address of 1 People’s Park, Pittsburgh PA 15219.

A picket and rally is being planned in Pittsburgh Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. at the City-County building.

Beyond opposing the call for eviction, Occupy Pittsburgh complaints against BNY/Mellon include alleged cases of fraudulent handling of pension funds in New York, Florida, California, Virginia and Massachusetts. The bank is also under investigation by the State of Pennsylvania for similar allegations.

by RFShunt

Occupy’s Reach Exceeds the Media’s Grasp

9:55 pm in Uncategorized by RFShunt

American Homestead for the Modern Age

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” — Mark Twain

The corporate steno pool media is anxious to write the obituary for the occupations around America.  Early drafts of the predictable death notice are already appearing. Like the papers that supposedly* got their facts slightly wrong concerning Mark Twain’s demise, the media may be completely off the mark when it comes to the occupy movement circling the drain.

Given the media’s hunger for “colorful” stories, this rush to be done with Occupy might seem surprising.  After all, we’re talking about news ghouls who would gleefully exhume Anna Nicole Smith’s body if they thought they could extract a few more cable news bites or column inches from her dessicated form.  But somehow, for the media eulogizers, Occupy’s funeral can’t come soon enough. They are all taking a number to see who gets to act as pall-bearer.

We know better, though. Yes, Zuccotti park is shut down, Boston’s been evicted, Oakland hauled away.  But Firedoglake’s own Occupy Supply is clothing protestors at nearly a hundred occupations large and small across the country.  And they aren’t dying, they don’t even have the sniffles (not with those scarves anyway.) We know there are active occupations from Saint Augustine to San Diego and all the saintly places in between.

But overlooking that multiplicity of occupations all over the country isn’t the media’s only mistake. The other, possibly bigger, story they are missing are the less photo-op-worthy activities happening away from the tents and the sleeping bags.

The right-on-the-money initiative of occupations to turn their attention to home foreclosures is not just a great idea, but possibly a glimpse of what the movement will ultimately bring us. Read the rest of this entry →

by RFShunt

Occupy Pittsburgh: Bank of New York/Mellon Posts Eviction Notice

6:42 pm in Uncategorized by RFShunt


BNY Mellon, owners of Mellon Green, the small park housing the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment, dropped the first shoe and served notice late Friday that they want the occupiers out of the park. The tassled loafer hit the floor when representatives from the bank arrived at the occupation wanting to present an eviction document. When no-one at the camp would accept it, a sign was posted on the green. BNY Mellon, citing alleged safety concerns, has given occupiers until Noon today (Sunday) to vacate. In the notice, BNY Mellon states their intention to seek a court injunction to evict the residents.

The notice’s deadline date coincides with a large and well-attended effort to revamp the camp, named “Occupy 2.0″. Camp residents, unwilling to leave Mellon Green, continued with the renovation as planned today – relocating tents, raising a larger army surplus mess tent, clearing more public space in the park, laying walkways and creating public facilities including a library and community tent areas.

The Occupation also countered with a notice of their own – citing alleged financial illegalities by the bank and urging public officials to resist pressure from BNY Mellon. Pittsburgh City council has previously issued a proclamation in support of the occupation.

Photo by: Raymond “Dimitri” Beljan – used by permission. All Rights Reserved.

by RFShunt

Occupy Pittsburgh Warms Up with Occupy Supplies

1:05 am in Uncategorized by RFShunt

Occupy Supply Pittsburgh Distribution

It’s been unseasonably warm the past few weeks here in western Pennsylvania, but the Pittsburgh skies are too fickle to let that go on for very long.  It turned cold a few days ago – temperatures in the 20′s at night and just peaking in the 30′s during the day.  Hats, scarves, socks and thermals from Occupy Supply were just the thing and just in time to warm the spirits and bodies of the occupiers who had made the commitment to see the winter out.

The camp in Pittsburgh’s Mellon Green is scheduled for a revamping, dubbed Occupy Pittsburgh 2.0.  This involves a reorganization of tents and facilities and a thorough winterization effort but also a re-dedication to bringing attention to the needs of the 99 percent.  Residents here are serious about creating a community that goes beyond a protest statement and offers an artistic and educational experience to the larger city.  Staying warm enough to be outside the tents for long periods to engage Pittsburgh pedestrians is something that Firedoglake’s Occupy Supplies will help with.

And of course, the occupiers were pleased and very thankful just to have warmer clothes as we head into the heart of the winter.

Occupy Pittsburgh gets new Winter Gear from R.F. Shunt on Vimeo.

by RFShunt

Occupy Pittsburgh Planning Meeting is S.R.O.

11:14 pm in Uncategorized by RFShunt

Occupy Pittsburgh Planning Session

I arrived about five minutes late for Occupy Pittsburgh’s first planning session, but expected that I would easily find a seat – possibly toward the back, at the Unitarian Church in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside district.  The near-impossibility of finding a parking space, dozens of bicycles chained to every pole, and sidewalks full of people headed my same direction hinted that I was going to be wrong

The Unitarian Church seats about two hundred people.  Three hundred or more showed up this evening for a hastily scheduled, and not well-publicized, planning meeting for Occupy Pittsburgh. Read the rest of this entry →