Local
8:24 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh Eviction Lawsuit Begins

Thursday marks the first court date of an eviction lawsuit recently filed by BNY Mellon to remove the Occupy Pittsburgh encampment from its downtown property.

Judge Christine Ward will hear the case in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

The bank wants to evict the protesters because of health and safety concerns, largely due to the fast-approaching winter. However, Occupy Pittsburgh said that it has taken strides to clean up the encampment and make it safe for the occupiers and the public.

The protest group's legal team cites the "Pittsburgh Urban Open Space Ordinance," which Occupy Pittsburgh said requires the Mellon Green parklet to remain open to the public without restriction.

Occupier and construction worker Tom Coleman said that his group has the support of city government.

"The police department and the fire department and the City Council have been standing in solidarity with us, so, with the city backing our activities, we think we may have a fighting chance with this court case," said Coleman.

He said that the protesters will continue with their usual course of action while the legal battle plays out. If the group is evicted, Coleman said that he's not sure what will happen next.

"I don't believe, at this point, we have a legitimate 'Plan B,'" said Coleman. "We picked this spot [because] it was our first choice. We didn't have a real good backup spot. At this point, there are a couple of churches in the area that we could fall back to, but that's not what we want."

He said that winterization efforts continue as colder weather draws near, but the camp is determined not to use gas heaters or fires, as those were concerns cited by BNY Mellon in its eviction notice.