Wall Street wave comes to Pittsburgh

| Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011

A global protest movement targeting corporate, economic and social issues is spreading to Pittsburgh, home to several major investment and banking firms.

Occupy Pittsburgh, named for the New York protests called Occupy Wall Street, is planning an event Oct. 15, said organizer Nathaniel Glosser of Friendship. He said the group will meet in Shadyside on Wednesday for the first time to talk, but he said he wants an event free of violence.

"We want change, and change doesn't come easily and it doesn't come quickly. But it does come when you have a critical mass of committed people to make it happen," said Glosser, 46, a writer and designer.

Occupy Wall Street began nearly two weeks ago with a small group of college students camping near Manhattan's financial district. The movement spread, with recent protests in front of Federal Reserve buildings in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, and marches and other protests planned in cities across several continents. On Saturday, New York City police arrested 700 Occupy Wall Street marchers as they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge.

A message on Occupy Pittsburgh's Facebook page reads: "We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything."

Organizer Jess Kelly, 34, of Sarver, a stay-at-home mother of four children, said, "It seems as if the government is not hearing the American people and what they have to say anymore. With the bank bailouts and corporate structure, we don't have much say as to what's going on."

With major investment and banking firms either based in or with large offices here, it's logical that the movement would spread to Western Pennsylvania, Glosser said.

"It's not just the investment and banking firms that we are decrying," Glosser said. "We are upset with the entire corporate culture. A corporation is an association of people hiding behind laws and it can do pretty much whatever it wants. The poor get poorer, the middle class gets poorer and the super-rich get richer."

Several local corporations, including PNC Bank and Federated Investors, declined to comment.

Glosser said the Pittsburgh movement started before he offered to help organize it; he said he's participated in several protests, including one in 2003 protesting the beginning of the Iraq War.

By Monday afternoon, the group had nearly 2,400 "Likes" on one of its Facebook pages and more than 100 people saying they probably would attend. Glosser said he's been in contact with New York organizers by e-mail, but they are not organizing Pittsburgh's efforts.

"I think there's tremendous energy in this movement. Everybody feels we're getting noticed and I think we're starting to worry the corporate powers that be," Glosser said.

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