Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy Pittsburgh: Heading to the Market

Deciding on a Date, Time and some Locations
Sorting out the Comment Policy and how to deal with Trolls.

The regional autonomous collective styling themselves after the #OccupyWallStreet protests in New York City has published a write-up of yesterday's meeting, which was held at the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside:

After much discussion about where best to have a group congregate to begin the movement/events, it was decided that the location working group would work on it, but anyone who is not in contact with the movement between today’s GA and October 15, 2011, should choose to meet at 10:00 am at one of these 3 locations: Freedom Corner, City-County building, or Market Square.

If the base location has changed from any of these locations, members of the Occupy movement will be on hand at these locations at 10:00 am to direct people to the new location(s) where they can assemble/march/camp. Some reservations were expressed to using Market Square, since there is a possibility of entrapment by the police if too many people assembled there, and this is noted. (OccupyPgh)

346 people had indicated an intention on Facebook to attend this first Occupy Pittsburgh General Assembly, or organizational meeting.

By all accounts, between 300 and 350 did attend.

3,607 "like" Occupy Pittsburgh on Facebook.


About 50% of the crowd at the First Unitarian Church looked to be between 18 and 29 years of age.

"Be gentle with each other," implored a moderately more mature Cassi Schaffer, who would later wind up becoming the lead facilitator for the first General Assembly and -- we'll write it -- the "leader" of Occupy Pittsburgh on that particular evening.

"Remember, the person sitting next to you right now, you might be sleeping next to in a week!

"Wait, I mean..." and there was a deeply appreciative chuckle.

The dozen or so organizers -- whom Schaffer describes as nothing greater than those "early adopters" on Facebook who became active just a week to ten days ago -- presented to the audience an elaborate consensus-seeking process patterned after the one being used in New York, imported to the group via #WallStreet veteran and one-time "acting spokesperson" Nathaniel Glosser. Handouts were on every seat.


This formal process was practiced for a time, or at least attempted, over sometimes vociferous objections from those more impatient. Then it was largely ignored for another long stretch. Applause, grumbles, out-of-turn exclamations and executive fiat replaced hand signals and formal processes. Then the rules were all humored or restored again towards the conclusion.

Early on, some sharp objections arose from several attendees regarding a proposed consensus statement endorsing non-violence -- which the organizers had hoped would pass that night.

"It says here I'm supposed to 'be prepared to absorb suffering,'" said one speaker, lodging a formal procedural "block" which at that time was still being honored. "I'm not going to do that." There was a scattered applause.

Another speaker in that same section of the church chimed in, "Look, anyone who has been in touch and who knows what's been going on here for years, they know we've been debating non-violence forever. We're never going to solve it tonight! Let's just forget about it and decide what we're going to do already!"

The two would leave partway through the meeting. Some followed them -- and this was loudly pointed out and complained over, again from that corner -- but some new attendees were still arriving.


Everything else on the agenda aside from the date, time and locations was tabled and to be sorted out by seventeen "working groups":

Outreach / Media
Outreach / Organizations
Outreach / Labor
Government Relations
Art / Entertainment
Food (there was a call among professional chefs to really get together and git-r-done)
Statement (ibid)

When it was asked how the working groups should get together amongst themselves, and then how to coordinate with the rest of the organization, an answer came swiftly.

"Twitter and Facebook," called out a droll voice. And there was much rejoicing. No need for another consensus-check on that score!


This blogger recognized very, very few of the "usual suspects" one runs into from a variety of local political events and rallies. To me there were exactly four familiar faces out of 300+ at this General Assembly.

One of those was Antonio Lodico, Co-Director at the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee and one-time Coro fellow.

"I was impressed with the brevity," Lodico offered. "You didn't get a lot of 90-second preambles like you get at a lot of these."

Some disinterested observers left feeling bewildered by the "cluster" they had just witnessed. Other attendees departed more upbeat, smoking cigarettes and lingering, chattering over working group ideas. More than a few left with both hugs and the rejoinder, "It was nice to meet you!"

Nearly everyone's favorite moment of the evening was Rev. David Herndon's of First Universalists Church very brief welcoming statement.

"You are all immensely welcome here," he said deliberately. "Go forth and occupy."

*-UPDATE: Potter recognized a few more faces: Slag Heap.


  1. "About 50% of the crowd at the First Unitarian Church looked to be between 18 and 29 years of age."

    What age group(s) comprised the other 50%?

  2. All. Or I should say, the other 50% seemed evenly distributed by people in their 30's through 80s. I didn't notice anything that looked like a high school or middle school contingent.

  3. Americans, have nothing better to do....

  4. Oh, great. Market Square was recently re-done (in part) to get rid of the homeless/drinks/etc. and now a bunch of ill-informed malcontent babies that want free hand-outs from the productive members of society. I suppose that English Lit degree wasn't all that great, was it? Or, that decision to strike, was it? Yeah, you showed them.

    I say to them - Go get a job.

  5. Are you actually real or what?

  6. Yes, I'm real.. and I'm right. I'm also a business owner.. that pays a ton of taxes.. way too much to support those who are too lazy.

    Guess you have an English Lit degree? Or some other useless degree such as PoliSci, Social Work, or a graduate degree in Librarian Studies?

  7. Once upon a time, a lot of children were told, "Figure out what you enjoy! If you work hard enough, you can be anything you want!" Those were mostly all the parents only successful enough to have breached the bottom rung of middle-class at best. Regardless, their children didn't learn theirs' was grossly substandard advise until much, much later.

    And even once they did learn it, there still remained a stubborn conviction that a willingness to work hard should be enough in this world -- adapting and training and being strategically clever constantly is just too much and not an answer for enough Americans.

  8. I'm actually still technically a Republican and voted for our current governor though the Republicans lost me in spirit with the bank bailout and the Tea Party's complete nonsense on Medicare/Medicaid.

    I actually do have a political science degree. Worked steadily because of it since 1995 or so. It has been a while since I had a class but I do remember the part about elections being popularity contests so when I see someone trying to be persuasive while being a huge ass, I do wonder if they are real.

  9. Anyway, the smart money is that the OWS stuff doesn't go anywhere and that the Democrats get defeated badly in the next election. But if the sneering-weasel contingent comes out in force, that will open the game.

    I know any number of people from all walks of life who have been laid-off over the past three or four years. You can't shout "Get a job" without making most people think of someone they know who worked hard for years and still got laid off.

  10. You can't shout "Get a job" without making most people think of someone they know who worked hard for years and still got laid off.


  11. Snark from the Fox-News/Right-Wing-Talk-Radio chorus will only help these efforts. In fact if commentators like the above didn't exist, they would be smart to invent them (who knows--maybe they did).

  12. All true, except this is one business owner that too often can't find qualified people that actually want to work.

  13. *If* I were hiring, I'd be surprised I could find applicants that could:
    (a) Pass a drug test,
    (b) Not have a visible tattoo,
    (c) Smell like cigarette smoke,
    (d) Want to work.. and work hard. Very hard in a physical environment (lifting 100#-200#).. find work to do when we're not that busy.
    (e) Show up for work EVERY day.

  14. You have a job that requires a neat appearance (no tattoos) and a clean smell (no cigarette smell) and lifting 100 to 200 pounds? You want them neat and clean for the fifteen minutes it takes to get sweaty and dirty when you have to lift stuff?

    I'm starting to think you have a management problem, not a labor one.

  15. I know what you mean about the cigarette smoke CM. I hate that. Just look at this dude--lazy, smelly smoker.

  16. Occupation began in 1955, with the publication of a poem called "Howl". By Allen Ginsberg?

    No one should hold Monk to Correct Spelling..

    It speaks to occupation. I was moved by poem 'Howl".


    " who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a
    trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic
    City Hall,
    suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grind-
    ings and migraines of China under junk-with-
    drawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
    who wandered around and around at midnight in the
    railroad yard wondering where to go, and went,
    leaving no broken hearts,
    who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing
    through snow toward lonesome farms in grand-
    father night,
    who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telep-
    athy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos in-
    stinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
    who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking vis-
    ionary indian angels who were visionary indian
    who thought they were only mad when Baltimore
    gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
    who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Okla-
    homa on the impulse of winter midnight street
    light smalltown rain,
    who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston
    seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the"

    @ penciled


  17. The writer (Ginsberg) was never on was the publisher of 'Howl'. Larry Flynnt was charged with same crime as was James Joyce...

    You can think it, but don't speak it? Never, ever, publish it...

    What say the Comet?

    Provide link to 'Howl'....Bram?


  18. A link to Monk's recommended reading, "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg. Very NSFW.

    including the word "gyzym," which I am going to remember for Scrabble.

  19. So that's where "angelheaded hipsters" came from, I suppose.