It’s been a year since Occupy Pittsburgh first set up an encampment in a small downtown park. On Monday, the group showed that it’s still operating, despite the lack of a physical headquarters for protests of economic and social issues.
A handful of Occupy participants put on a small demonstration in Market Square around lunchtime. The activists asked passers-by to randomly draw cards; some were labeled as part of the 1% of the wealthiest Americans, while the majority received “99%” cards. In a play on Halloween, the 1% received chocolate bars, but the 99% got penny candy.
After reviewing some graphs of average pay in different jobs, passer-by Catherine Ulinski of Bethel Park said the demonstration showed what she calls an unfair distribution of wealth in America.
“There’s (sic) people out there getting so much money, and yet, us people that have low income and have no money and are living off of welfare and stuff are going to end up homeless with welfare cut and everything,” said Ulinski, currently unemployed.
Other demonstrations were planned for the Highland Park neighborhood and also the Mellon Green park, where the protesters camped out for several months last winter. The group was formed as one of many offshoots of "Occupy Wall Street," a massive encampment protest of social and economic issues in New York City's Zucotti Park.
Since the Occupy Pittsburgh campers were evicted from Mellon Green this February, visibility for the protest movement has waned considerably. However, Occupy Pittsburgh participant Jeff Cech said he still sees the social movement as a long-term effort.
“This movement will probably keep going as long as there are people who are upset about the economic inequality in the country, and the way that affects us socially,” said Cech.
He said there were both pros and cons to having an encampment in Mellon Green.
“There were constantly people around to go to demonstrations, so it was really easy to get people together to show support for an issue,” said Cech. “But at one point, it was taking a lot of energy out of the movement. It took a lot of energy to stay at that camp, so now that energy is being put into more direct organizing in different communities."
BNY Mellon’s downtown parklet is now guarded by a wire fence.