For months, Occupy Pittsburgh has been surprisingly successful, refreshingly resourceful, pleasantly persistent, and intensely worthwhile.
Every American who recognizes the injustice (and chronic, unsustainable trajectory) of accelerating income inequality, every citizen who chafes against undeserved privilege embedded in our system, everyone who believes our society would benefit from diminution of greed and corruption should be grateful to the Occupiers, many of whom have sacrificed comfort for the worthy purpose of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
Pittsburgh's Occupiers -- based at a Sixth-at-Grant camp, conducting periodic field trips (left) carrying a message to scattered neighborhoods -- have been especially admirable. They have avoided most of the problems -- some self-inflicted, some provoked, others ascribable entirety to thuggish politicians and police -- experienced elsewhere.
Others deserve ample credit for working with the Occupiers to arrange a good situation. Most prominent are BNY Mellon, which has graciously cooperated with protesters squatting on property (right) that it at least largely private, and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, which has exhibited a civic-minded restraint it has often lacked in spotlighted situations.
Most of these noble circumstances could change today, however. That would be unfortunate, and avoidable.
BNY Mellon has informed Occupiers that it has withdrawn its permission for an encampment, effective at noon today. It has declared that it would seek an injunction tomorrow if the park is not cleared today. BNY Mellon likely is entitled to enforce its wishes in this regard, and the Pittsburgh police would possess a duty to protect BNY Mellon's rights.
Some Occupiers have promised to resist an effort to clear the park. We hope those voices have been the loudest but not the most numerous among the Occupiers; that the Occupiers who have expressed defiance will reconsider; and that the Occupiers' collective body will choose sound strategy over counterproductive tactics, for the sake of preserving and expanding the good their altruistic actions have accomplished.
The history of populist movements is not encouraging in this regard. The wealthy and privileged customarily win these battles, even as the majestic arc of our nation's progress has traced toward justice over the long term. One important reason for the elites' enviable record is that they select strategy over tactics, and an important reason for that choice is that they have better advisers.
The wealthy have strong lawyers, astute financial consultants, effective lobbyists, smooth mouthpieces. Those counselors have excellent support systems, and their clients are well-organized.
The common man is not so fortunate. Unions have leaders and advisers who permit pension plans to submerge members' interests under decades of underfunding and mismanagement without so much as a modicum of inquiry, a moment of recognition, or a murmur of objection. Average Americans must rely on small legal offices to counter the privileged interests' huge, powerful law firms. The wealthy are served by financial magicians who enable billion-dollars companies to evade taxation, while the blue collar worker puzzles his own way through the 1040 to a higher tax rate than a hedge fund titan pays.
Occupiers choosing counterproductive tactics without regard to finances and other resources, legal issues, and other factors would be destined to follow a predictable path to futility. They would squander public support, splinter their organization, disserve their message, and lose.
Their ideals and accomplishments deserve -- and can be served -- better. They could devise and implement a long-term strategy that inclines success. For example, they could thank BNY Mellon for its hospitality, then negotiate with public officials for another location. (Several public parcels in or near downtown seem suitable.) They could try to persuade another private owner to provide another location, perhaps involving indoor accommodations. They could attempt to arrange an invitation to return to BNY Mellon's property after winter breaks.
To engage in legal jousting with BNY Mellon and/or a physical confrontation with law enforcement personnel would be to succumb to short-term and longshot tactics when long-term and effective strategy is indicated. There is still time for Pittsburgh's Occupiers to avoid the temptation to rely on emotion, to take the low road, to play into the hands of their opponents.
We hope our Occupiers find leaders, advisers, and strategies able to guide them to continuing success.
Infytune: Before The Deluge, Joan Baez and Jackson Browne
Infytune: Strange Fruit, Billie Holliday
Infytune: Only A Pawn In Their Game, Bob Dylan
Infytune: This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land
Infytune: Occupy (We The 99), Jasiri X