Occupy and Political Dissent Treated as Terrorism

by Justin Karter

Recent lawsuits have revealed the members of Occupy, anti-war activists and protesters are treated as “terrorists” by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies, a designation that carries potential legal and civil rights consequences such as increased surveillance and indefinite detention.

In response to repeated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests concerning an alleged sniper plot to assassinate members of Occupy Houston, FBI FOIA chief David Hardy repeatedly argued in court that the information was classified because “disclosure would interfere with an investigation.” The F.B.I. investigation was not concerning the assassination plot however. Rather, it was directed at the members of Occupy Houston. Hardy stated that Occupy Houston is being investigated for “domestic terrorism” and “advocating overthrow of government.” Continue reading

Men Of Honor – Steel City Mayan

by Olivia Rose Mancing

East Carson Street bar, March 2014, and late night employees itching from their unbearable shift at the huge franchise restaurants of the Southside Works spill in with abrasive chatter, peels of laughter, barks and squeals. They lounge on one another in their front-of-house white blouses and jeans, throwing back their heads to pour in the elixir of relaxation—Miller Light. Amid the shouting and the top twenty countdown songs blaring from the jukebox, three young men sit silently at the bar. They are all three slight of build, all but five feet tall and of a clay complexion, shiny black hair. They do dishwashing and heavy-duty cleaning in the same restaurants as the others. They speak to each other softly, pensively in Ixil, a Mayan language they carried with them across two national borders—Nebaj, Guatemala to Pittsburgh, a city that’s skyline resembles Gotham in the cold drizzle of an early-spring night. Continue reading

Arun Gupta on What Comes After Occupy: Guest Editorial

The People's Park, Pittsburgh, in October 2011.

The People’s Park, Pittsburgh, in October 2011.

Anniversaries are a time for memorial and evaluation, to dissect what has passed and venture what could have been. The one-year anniversary of the founding of Occupy Pittsburgh Now offers one such opportunity, and what happened to the Occupy Wall Street movement is the burning question.

In hindsight everything about Occupy seems logical, even inevitable – the conditions that gave rise to it, the decisions made, the overall trajectory. It was a year of global uprisings; big banks were widely loathed; Democrats and Republicans had let the economic crisis fester; “We are the 99%” electrified millions; occupation brought the anger to Wall Street’s doorstep while creating a festive democratic commons; and in the end the system, that vague suffocating force, crushed the dream. Continue reading

Make it Our UPMC Protest

About 150 protesters made up of a coalition of groups such as Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, Pittsburghers for Public Transit and Fight Back Pittsburgh, marched from UPMC headquarters in the U. S. Steel building to the City-County Building and the County Courthouse chanting “UPMC – You Are Not A Charity”.
The coalition has started a campaign called “Make It Our UPMC”, charging that the non-profit health care organization does not do enough for the regions community; for instance- spending less than 2% of its revenues on free health-care, while generating $9.6 billion dollars in revenue in its last fiscal year, and receiving $204 million dollars in tax breaks in 2012.
UPMC is the area’s largest tax-exempt charity with annual profits worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s CEO is paid more than $6 million dollars a year, 22 other executives make at least $1 million per year while it’s full time employees are the third most frequent users of public assistance in the region, after Walmart & McDonalds, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor.
UPMC is the largest private employer in Pennsylvania, with approximately 56,000 employees.

“Oh, you mean they’re going to gentrify the river?”

by Bram Reichbaum

That was the reaction of one former Occupy Pittsburgh participant, upon learning of the Buncher Company’s plans to redevelop 55 acres in the Strip District. The swath of land  stretches from 11th to 21st St. and from Smallman St. to the shoreline of the Allegheny.

On one hand, the sweeping deal for this chunk of land represents the expansion of the cramped “Golden Triangle” central business district eastward; on the other hand, though, it forecasts challenges for maintaining the authentic lure of the Strip and of Pittsburgh’s riverfronts as neighborhood and tourist amenities. Continue reading

Ground Up (and Down): OPN Looks at America’s Infrastructure

A few decades ago, it was conventional wisdom that America’s infrastructure was the best in the world.

But that’s not true anymore. According to the 2011-12 World Economic Forum’s ranking of national infrastructure systems, American infrastructure has fallen to #16, behind South Korea, down from #6 in 2007.

Without even replacement-level investment for decades, our infrastructure is simply worn out. Many of our roads and bridges, for example, are decades past their planned lifespans, and are daily carrying loads many times what they were designed to handle.

From our deteriorating roads and bridges aboveground to the crumbling water and sewage pipes under our feet, from the fragility of our patchwork and overstressed electrical grid to the unfinished business of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, we know we can do better.

And it’s also clear that infrastructure investments not only provide immediate economic opportunities, they continue to spur economic growth for years. As infrastructure champions point out, paying into our infrastructure is not a cost—it’s an investment that pays us back many times over in hundreds of ways, including quality of life. And as our planet faces a dramatically changing climate, smart planning and action in making sustainability a core consideration is more important than ever before.

But until recently there’s been little political will, either on the part of our privatization-obsessed Governor or our Republican-dominated legislature, to find a way forward. Ending years of inertia, Corbett has promised a plan this week, and it’s eagerly awaited, since construction costs rise daily.

In this atmosphere, what can PA’s citizens do to ensure a better future and intelligent and efficient infrastructure? How can we facilitate action at all levels of government and ensure we act as responsible global citizens at the same time?  Who is responsible for making decisions, how do we reach them, and where does funding for these endeavors come from?

Next month, OPN will feature its first piece in the ongoing series Ground Up (and Down) which will focus on the contemporary realities of American infrastructure and ways in which citizens can do their part to ensure a more sustainable future.  We will be examining local infrastructure issues and national trends which affect us on a local level, offer a clearer picture on the economic, social and environmental impacts of infrastructure on our region, and offer some ideas for moving forward.

We look forward to bringing this to our readers and literally Occupy the streets (and water systems, and electric grid, and communications systems…

CeaseFire PA Candlelight Vigil Remembers Victims of Gun Violence

Each year in Pennsylvania, 1,200 people are killed because of gun violence, and thousands more are injured.
On January 8, members of CeaseFirePA joined the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence on the anniversary of 19 people being shot in a Tuscon Arizona Supermarket parking lot, leaving six dead and 13 wounded, including United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Thousands of people across Pennsylvania joined in the national candlelight vigil to remember friends & family members whose lives ended or were impacted by gun violence.
The event took place at the at the Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church in Pittsburgh, joining Philadelphia, York, Reading, West Chester, Easton and Kennett Square PA.
Those unable to attend but wishing to participate, were able to share their message of support or make a commitment to take a stand against gun violence at CeaseFirePA’s website.

Vigil for Victim of Domestic Violence

A march, followed by a vigil at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in East Liberty, took place on Saturday, January 12, for KaSandra Wade, who was found shot to death in her apartment on January 2, 2013.
According to news reports: At 10:38 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Ms. Wade called 911 from a cell phone. During that 28-second conversation, Ms. Wade was only able to ask for “someone” to come to her home in Larimer before there was a muffled sound, then the line being disconnected.
Investigators believe that Ms. Wade was secretly trying to call for help and had the phone ripped from her hand, according to District Attorney Steven Zappala. Ms. Wade was found shot to death in her apartment 20 hours later.
Wade began working for Action United in March as an intern while she was a student at the Kaplan Career Institute, according to Maryellen Deckard, Statewide Campaign & Development director. The organization hired her before she finished the internship, and she was due to start full-time on the Wednesday following her death, Deckard said.
East Liberty-based Action United is a nonprofit that focuses on issues affecting low-income communities.
At the march, people spoke about creating “KaSandra’s Law”, legislation that would make it mandatory for police to speak with a woman during domestic violence calls.
The goal is to present it to city council on National Women’s Day, March 8, 2013.

First Meeting of Fight Back Pittsburgh

The inaugural meeting of Fight Back Pittsburgh (FBP) brought 68 FBP members together for the first time. Packed into a conference room at the United Steelworkers (USW) building, the meeting was chaired by USW Local Union #3657 President, Patrick Young.

The meeting was run like a USW local, as outlined in the union’s by-laws.  Young says, “We’re not a front group for the Steelworkers, we are the Steelworkers.”  FBP is a local chapter of the USW’s Associate Member Program, also known as Fight Back America, and it’s sponsored by local#3657.

During the meeting, the membership voted to endorse two upcoming “actions” or demonstrations.

New Voices Pittsburgh and hundreds of organizations worldwide are planning One Billion Rising, a global day of action against violence against women, transwomen, gender queer and gender non-conforming people. On February 14 (Valentine’s Day), Pittsburgh activists will gather from noon until 2 p.m. in Market Square for an energetic, colorful, dancing demonstration to celebrate women’s right for peace, dignity and lives free from violence.  Similar dance-oriented demonstrations are being planned around the world.

Also, on February 11, Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) and other transit advocates from across the state are planning a day of action in Harrisburg to demand sustainable funding for public transit. Buses headed to the state capitol will leave at 7:30 a.m. from Freedom Corner (corner of Center and Crawford in Downtown Pittsburgh). Participants can register for the bus trip through the FBP site.

At this month’s meeting, FBP also formed five new committees to get the work of the new organization moving forward.

The Membership Committee will be reaching out to other working class people in our community to invite them to join Fight Back Pittsburgh!  Those interested in getting involved should e-mail Amber Miller at amiller@usw.org

The Bylaws Committee will be drafting bylaws for FBP to be presented to the membership for ratification.  Folks interested in helping thinking about the structure and organization of Fight Back Pittsburgh should email John Lepley at jlepley@usw.org

An Education Committee will focus on organizing and coordinating educational events and activities for Fight Back Pittsburgh members and the Pittsburgh community.  If you’re interested in getting involved in the Education Committee, email Carl Davidson atcarld717@aol.com

“Fight Back in Our Community” is a committee of FBP that will organize around issues that matter to working class people in the Pittsburgh community, from transit, to development to healthcare. To get involved, email Doug Ward at dward@usw.org

“Fight Back at Work” will likewise aim to help working class people in our community understand and enforce the rights on the job and organize to improve their workplaces.  To get involved, email Jeff Cech at jeffcech@gmail.com. 

Fight Back Pittsburgh membership meetings are the first Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the Steelworkers Headquarters at 60 Blvd. of the Allies in downtown Pittsburgh.  Those who are interested, but have not yet joined FBP, can do so at the meeting or online at www.fightbackpittsburgh.org