Occupy Pittsburgh defies eviction; seizes Downtown park

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Organizers of the Occupy Pittsburgh tent encampment said today they are "seizing" the BNY Mellon's privately owned park in Downtown, will rename it "People's Park," and will serve BNY Mellon with an eviction notice Monday.

Jeff Cech, 28, of Greenfield, one of the organizers, made this announcement at a press conference late this morning.

Members of the protest movement at Mellon Green said they will not be moved from the Downtown park and instead are cleaning and winterizing the site as part of their plan to stay at least through winter.

They said that even if the police show up to enforce an order issued Friday by BNY Mellon that they leave the park by noon today, the protesters have no intention of complying. There was no police presence on site this morning.

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Ken Miller, 38, of the North Side, said he expects occupiers will win their fight in court.

Volunteers and occupiers this morning were moving tents to one side of the park and cleaning up muddy, wet cardboard, pallets and particle board that had served as the foundation for their tents. They also are raking away debris and replacing it with fresh material.

Occupants were served with notices from the financial company on Friday night that they must remove their tents, other structures and personal items, citing concerns about "all aspects of personal safety. These concerns are heightened by reported incidents of hypothermia and the use of propane heaters, gasoline powered generators and other flammable devices in the confined spaces of tents."

After today's deadline, "overnight camping and the presence of any structures, camping equipment and stored personal items will be prohibited and considered an unlawful trespass, which we will seek to remedy by filing for injunctive relief with the court on Monday," said the notice. Notices were also posted on stakes at the four corners of the property, but had disappeared by yesterday morning.

One Occupy Pittsburgh organizer, Helen Gerhardt, 45, of Point Breeze, said yesterday that no generators or other flammable devices are on the site.

She said that some occupiers would practice civil disobedience if attempts were made to remove the group, but noted that the demonstrators believes they are within their legal rights to stay there.

Ron Gruendl, a spokesman for BNY Mellon, yesterday said, "Our support for free speech has never wavered. As we repair our property and close the park for the winter, we hope the city will make sure there is always public space available in Pittsburgh for peaceful assembly."

Noon today marked the deadline set by BNY Mellon for the Occupy Pittsburgh demonstrators to remove their tents and other structures from the company's privately-owned park at Sixth and Grant streets, Downtown. The demonstrators have been camping at the location, Mellon Green, since Oct. 15.

A little after noon, several dozen occupiers, including many union members, were gathered outside the encampment at Sixth Avenue and Grant Street in anticipation of police attempts to oust them.


Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: ascharsmith@post-gazette.com


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