Steve Iskovitz: Occupy Pittsburgh, Saturday, October 15

Steve Iskovitz, a friend and former Green-Rainbow Party candidate for Cambridge City Council, has started emailing his thoughts from the front lines of the Occupy movement.  Since this blog has lain dormant for so long, I decided to lend it to him.  I will post the backlog of messages about once a day and then start posting them as they come in.  I am posting them uneditted.  His words are his own. You can find all of his posts under the Occupy tag.

It’s by pure chance that I was present for the first day of Occupy Pittsburgh.

There was a march to Market Square downtown, and a rally there, which I caught the last hour of. Then they marched over to the occupation site, a small park a few blocks from downtown, near Uptown and not far from the Hill District. A few people set up tents immediately, someone brought a table, which quickly became filled with food, and after a little while, the General Assembly. I want to say it was the historic first G.A., but actually it was the third of fourth the group has held, but it was the first on the actual occupation site. It was all much more orderly than OWS in New York. Partly because they were allowed to use a megaphone, but mostly because it was much smaller (though the first ones in New York were probably smaller, too). Also, there weren’t two, nor even one drum circle on the edge of the park.

It’s funny, the other occupation sites around the country seem to have tents and amplification, only New York is denied both, making it the most difficult, yet New York is still by far the most important and the most exciting. Anyway, so the working groups ran through their policies– basic stuff like no violence, respect the grounds, they reached consensus on doing protests downtown twice a week and talked about some of the institutions they’d march to. This was interesting because the park where they are, with the owner’s permission for the time being, I think is called BNY Mellon (Bank New York Mellon), and the very first protest is going to be down at the headquarters of– that’s right– BNY Mellon!

I suggested they go up to CMU and protest the flood of military money and research there, not the least of which is development of drone technology. The idea wasn’t too well received, because CMU is several miles away and up a long hill and they don’t want to march there. I hope they reconsider and take a bus or something, because this is a great opportunity to raise awareness of this ill collaboration between elite higher education and futuristic death technology. (I made a sign at the Market Square rally that said, “CMU: No Autonomous Killer Drones.”)

But it’s not my call. I’ll have to leave such decisions up to the Occupy Pittsburgh people. It’s great to see this happening in my hometown, conservative as this place is. But New York is the epicenter. Wow, they rallied all around the world, now inspired by Occupy Wall Street. Even in Hong Kong, and Santiago, Chile, as well as Europe, and all over this country.

I was impressed with the Pittsburgh people, though. They understand completely the concensus process. They use the exact same techniques they do in New York. It’s as if they all attended the same seminar, but they didn’t. I’m a little curious how this technique and the values system that goes along with it can be adhered to so precisely in so many different places at the same time. Just so that I’m not misunderstood: I’m completely in favor of it. It’s a highly developed method of organizing, and it’s incredible to me that this method is practiced so widely and so proficiently. How can this be? Is it some kind of generational shift? Does it have something to do with the new communications technology? They’ll put their own local stamp on it, of course. One girl said she had to leave to watch the Penguins’ game, ha-ha. I just hope they can find one person to stay behind on Sundays to watch people’s stuff while the rest go off to watch the Steelers.

BNY Mellon said they could stay at least until tomorrow morning. I think they just want to make sure the people don’t trash the grounds. I get the sense that if they tell them to leave, they’ll just leave, so it’s totally different from OWS and Brookfield Properties in that sense. And they say there’s a church a few blocks away where they can stay if they need to, though there’s really nothing like a permanent, visible site…Compared with New York it’s all strangely civil. 

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