Occupy Pittsburgh drew its largest police presence to date as more than 100 supporters marched through Oakland Wednesday night, sometimes blocking lanes of traffic and chanting messages against police brutality.
At one point, more than 10 police cars and motorcycles were used to move the crowd off Bellefield Avenue. No large-scale arrests were made during the nearly three-hour demonstration.
The march began at Schenley Plaza about 6:30 p.m. and snaked throughout the college neighborhood. It was designed to show support for the California-based Occupy Oakland, where one veteran was left in critical condition following a confrontation with police.
For some, the Pittsburgh march was a tone-changer for the leaderless local protesters, some of whom have been camping in Mellon Green, Downtown, for more than two weeks.
"People are a bit nervous with this kind of thing," said Jonathan Gray, a Colorado resident who has been living in the Pittsburgh camp since it began on Oct. 15. "To show that we were able to do that the right way, it makes people a little braver the next time around."
More than 100 people turned out when the march hit its peak. It began like many other Occupy Pittsburgh events, with a man with a megaphone asking the protesters where they wanted to go. With this group, as with other spin-offs of the Occupy Wall Street movement, all decisions are made during a direct vote.
Supporters marched up to the patio outside the University of Pittsburgh's Litchfield Towers dormitory between Forbes and Fifth avenues, where one student in a dorm tossed water down on them. Other students looked on curiously.
Andrew Besner, an 18-year-old freshman at the school, watched from outside. He said he initially supported the movement but is having second thoughts. "They seem to be getting more radical," Mr. Besner said, citing an event last week in which some Occupy Pittsburgh supporters walked into a PNC Bank Downtown and sat there for a while.
Wednesday night marked another first for Occupy Pittsburgh -- the first time members marched into traffic lanes without a permit, Mr. Gray said.
Protesters marched to the Cathedral of Learning, and a few ran inside it. When they turned onto Craig Street for the first time, they walked into traffic lanes, at one point nearly surrounding an officer on a motorcycle. One person dressed in all black held a flare.
A police officer held back a muzzled K-9 officer.
Some protesters remained on the sidewalks and said they worried the group was acting like a "mob."
The Occupy members, who were joined by various passers-by, circled around Pitt's campus a second time, blocking traffic on parts of Fifth. As they turned down Craig again, they were greeted by more police with sirens blaring. When they blocked all of Bellefield, more than 10 police cars and motorcycles worked to move them off the street.
The group continued to move through Oakland and, at one point, a person threw a flare at an officer.
Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board, commended the officers for showing restraint.
"They were in the streets. They were antagonizing police," Ms. Pittinger said of some of the protesters.
Some of the protesters said they were pleasantly surprised by the police restraint. Shortly before 10 p.m., one man was arrested at David Lawrence Hall on the Pitt campus, where some Occupy supporters had tried to attend an on-campus event. Pitt police Chief Tim Delaney said officers had asked the man to leave earlier in the night and he returned to the building. It was not clear whether the man was part of the Occupy Pittsburgh demonstrations.