Occupy The Rust Belt:
Notes From The Pittsburgh Protest
Occupy Pittsburgh crowd massed at Freedom Square in the Hill District. (Photo © Karen Lillis)
By Karen Lillis
On October 15, I marched with Occupy Pittsburgh, the city’s first action in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. I watched excitedly as the crowd grew throughout the day, building from a modest gathering when my partner and I arrived at Freedom Corner at 10:00 a.m., to a rally in the low thousands by the time the march reached Market Square at 1:00 p.m.
In sharp contrast to national anti-Occupy jeers against the “dirty hippies” and stereotypes of black-clad anarchists, a broad spectrum of the population showed up to march. College students and parents with small children. Union members and nine-to-fivers. Retirees and laid-off workers. Voters and tax-payers. The underclass and the working class and the middle class and self-identified members of the 1%. At one point I found myself between an old man in a motorized wheelchair and a young girl being pulled in a wagon.
I also noticed who didn’t show up to the march. My friends and many acquaintances in Pittsburgh are artists and writers, musicians and freelancers, actors and librarians, small business owners and academics. Most are progressives and free-thinkers who exist well left of the current Democratic party. But I saw less than 20 people I knew in the four hours I spent with the demonstrators. The first two folks I recognized were a barista and a waiter who have both served me food and drink.
“Hurray for service workers!,” I thought, having spent almost two decades of my working years in restaurants or retail.