Economy
2:45 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh ‘Evicts’ BNY Mellon

Occupy Pittsburgh activists have done more than defy the eviction notice given to them on Friday by property owner BNY Mellon, they've given the bank an "eviction notice" of its own.

On Monday, a group of about twenty occupiers gathered at the plaza below BNY Mellon Center to demand that the bank leave its Grant Street tower, a retort to BNY Mellon's legal request that the protesters stop camping on its Downtown property.

Occupy Pittsburgh representatives handed an "eviction notice" — legally invalid because the protesters do not own the property — to an unnamed BNY Mellon official, who accepted it and stood by silently as the document was read aloud.

Occupier John Lacny of Overbrook said that the bank fails to pay its check processors wages that would sustain a family, also noting four lawsuits against the company regarding the mistreatment of public pension funds.

"In this light, we see BNY Mellon as frivolous in its recent demand that people exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and assembly should remove their tents and camping equipment," said Lacny, reading from the "eviction notice" for the bank. "It is BNY Mellon that is intruding on us, and it is time for them to go."

BNY Mellon owns the small park on the corner of Grant Street and Sixth Avenue, and generally chains off the property during winter. The bank told the protesters to remove their tents by noon on December 11, or face a legal battle.

However, Occupy Pittsburgh claims that the protesters can't be evicted, citing free speech and assembly rights provided by the federal and state constitutions. The activists also point to a city ordinance that they claim allows them to use the privately-owned green space without restriction. Pittsburgh officials have said that they won't force the occupiers to leave without a court order.

The activists confirmed that they would remain camped out in the Mellon Green park while legal teams for both the bank and the protesters work out the dispute in court. They've been there since October 15 with relatively little conflict between the bank and the encampment, though occupiers said on Monday that they had already called attention to the pension lawsuits involving BNY Mellon.

On Saturday, the General Assembly of Occupy Pittsburgh renamed the small green space "The People's Park." They've claimed to be the only Occupation to reclaim land from a bank.

Occupier Don Carpenter of Mount Lebanon said that the activists have insulated their tents and put some military winterization equipment to use to prepare for the incoming cold weather.

"We won't go quietly into the night," said Carpenter.