KDKA Investigation: Unoccupied Pittsburgh?
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With the clock ticking toward eviction for the Occupy Pittsburgh protestors as soon as Monday, a KDKA investigation discovers that the movement may be all but over anyway.
On six different nights, investigator Marty Griffin visited the tent encampment on the Mellon Green downtown and found all 60 tents where you would expect protestors to be sleeping — empty.
In fact Marty says he found more rats than people in the encampment, which wasn’t surprising, since the camp was full of garbage and half eaten food.
The first night Marty encountered a homeless man who claimed to be part of the Occupy movement, but admitted he lived under a tree in the park before the occupiers took it over.
The second night Marty was accompanied by Moon Run Fire Captain Nate Kashmer who used a thermal imaging camera to see if any people were sleeping in the tents.
“If I’m pointing it and there’s somebody there, it will pick up their heat signature,” explained Kashmer.
After walking through the entire encampment with the camera, Kashmer and Marty found no one in any of the tents.
While he checked the camp on six nights, Kevin Joyce, owner of the Carleton Restaurant in nearby One Mellon Center, says he walks through the camp every morning and evening, close to 100 times since the camp was established.
“These tents are really empty,” Joyce told Marty. “It’s really unoccupied Pittsburgh because the tents are really empty.”
Joyce says the camp has affected business at his restaurant because patrons don’t want to walk through the tents and trash to get to him.
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who watched Marty’s video, says it’s time for the camp to go. But he’s also heard what Marty has been told – that hundreds of reinforcements may be called in from Washington, D.C. to repopulate the camp.
“Obviously, this tape shows it, nobody’s been there for a long period of time,” Ravenstahl said. “If a large number of people all of a sudden show up, I think it really shows you what the Occupy folks are all about. And at that point we have no choice but to engage and to really enforce the judge’s order,” Ravenstahl said.
It says the protestors must vacate the camp by 12:30 p.m. on Monday.
Organizers are non-committal about whether they will leave peacefully, and dodged Marty’s questions about why they’re not occupying full time.
“Is it an occupation when you have one person here? Is that an occupation by definition,” asked Marty.
“What’s the point of an occupation Marty? It’s not to stand around. It’s not to sleep in the grass,” answered John Chech.
“Then why have the tents if they’re not going to sleep here?” countered Marty.
“Because we’re maintaining the space as a public forum,” said Chech.
There is no word from the Sheriff’s Department on whether they will enforce the camp eviction order Monday.
Most other cities have already evicted their Occupy camps. They report that all of their occupiers had a core group of protestors who stayed in the camp 24/7.
Friday night, protestors at the encampment spoke to KDKA’s Kym Gable.
“I’m here every night, I have a pretty nice setup,” Tim McDonald, a protestor, said. “It’s comfy, it’s cozy. We have movie nights. To say that nobody’s here on any given night is a bold-faced lie.”
“Not everyone can be camping here all the time,” Zsuzsi Matolcsy, a protestor, said. “Some people work, some people have other obligations, family obligations, but a lot of people will come down here and spend a few days to camp to support the movement.”