On Saturday, millions of people in more than a thousand cities in dozens of countries on six continents marched in peaceful protest of global financial corruption and economic injustice. Think about that. It’s never happened before. Even the multiple social movements in the 1960s didn’t organize a global event like this on a single day. Woodstock in 1969 and Hands Across America in 1986 weren’t this big.
More than 3,500 people gathered at Pittsburgh’s historic Freedom Corner to Occupy Pittsburgh. After an invigorating rally, they marched through Downtown, stopping at the headquarters of several local banks and corporations, and ending with another rally in Market Square.
We were all ages, races, occupations, and lifestyles. Babies in strollers, little kids, soccer moms, employed, unemployed, self-employed, retired, students, LGBTQ, straight, veterans, young, old, rich, poor, religious, atheists, union leaders, union members, straight-laced, outrageous, aging hippies, second generation progressives, new hippies, middle class folks from the suburbs, anarchists, capitalists, elected officials, friends, families, and strangers marched together in self defense. I talked to a family from Ithaca New York who drove to Pittsburgh just for the event.
If you fit into any of those categories, this movement is about you.
Nathan Kilduff, a University of Pittsburgh student, said he skipped Pitt’s homecoming football game to Occupy because “Our generation has to handle these problems.”
The event was lively, friendly, happy, and peaceful. People helped each other. I got handshakes, high fives, and hugs from total strangers. The Pittsburgh police were remarkably helpful and calm. Uniformed officers stood on the fringes of the square, but not within the crowd. There was not a single tense or violent incident, and no arrests.
No, it’s not an “organized” movement of the corporate, top-down, authoritarian variety. But it’s not at all chaotic. I saw several TV news cameras early in the march, but they vanished quickly, as they always do. I didn’t see a single reporter interviewing participants. Yet the corporate media talking heads will continue to pretend that it confuses them.
We stand for the virtues and values that are missing from most of our public institutions. We stand for empathy, helpfulness, fairness, tolerance, caring, courage, respect, loyalty, responsibility, honesty, cooperation and opportunity. We stand against corporate and government greed and corruption. If any of those qualities are important to you, then this movement is about you.
The atmosphere was festive, but the messages were sincere and serious, as declared in the chants, signs, and T-shirts:
- We are the 99 percent.
- Separation of Bank and State.
- OBAMA – Wish you were here!
- Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.
- End racist police brutality.
- Stop the war on the working class.
- Wall Street is in it to make a killing. I just want to make a living.
- Free market = private gains, socialized losses.
- Keep it Made in America.
- Human needs, not corporate greed.
- For sale – Our future.
- The whole world is marching.
- End corporate welfare.
- You may say I’m a dreamer. I’m not the only one.
- Well-behaved women rarely make history.
- It’s about time.
- My future is f***ed.
- The people, united, will never be defeated.
- Stop corporate funding of elections. Campaign finance reform.
- When the poor get hungry, we’ll eat the rich.
- Bring the troops home.
- Health care not wealth care.
- Abandon the bought Congress.
- Don’t frack with Pittsburgh.
- This is what democracy looks like.
And my favorite,
“I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one of them”.
As the rally permit expired and the crowd dwindled, a drum circle arose, filling the square with rhythm and dance. Eventually, the drummers formed a line and led the demonstrators up Forbes Avenue to Grant Street, ending at Mellon Green across the street from the William Penn Hotel. They’ll be there, with permission, for the foreseeable future.
Anyone can attend a one-day event like this, but it takes a special kind of dedication and stamina to endure a long-term encampment. They’re occupying Pittsburgh to fight for your life, as well as their own, so stop in and visit. Take some food, blankets, magazines, medical supplies, or whatever you can spare. Show your support for their commitment. Take your kids and teach them about selflessness. You’ll be safe and you’ll be welcome.
No significant social change has ever happened anywhere in the world without public protest and demonstration. The world’s massive problems require us to launch a massive movement. This is just the beginning. The whole world is watching. If you want peace, work for justice.
WE ARE ONE
For More Information
Public Demonstrations Do Bring Change
Al-Jazeera Occupy reports