by Kevin Begos
Associated Press Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP)—As many as 2,000 people protesting against corporate influence in politics and social inequality marched in Pittsburgh on Saturday, while smaller protests popped up in Philadelphia and at the state Capitol.
The peaceful crowd, joining with the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York, stretched for two or three blocks and included union members, parents with children in strollers and even at least one doctor.
While there were many young people in the crowd, local unions played an active role in supporting the march.
“I see our members losing jobs. People are angry,” said Janet Hill, 49, who works for the United Steelworkers. She said the organization hosted a sign-making event prior to the march.
Former steelworker Gregory Olverson agreed.
“It’s hard to find a job. And this has been going on for quite a few years,” the 60-year-old Olverson said.
A few members of the Amalgamated Transit Union joined the march, while others carried signs that said “Separation of Bank & State” and “Healthcare not Wealthcare.”
Rob Pepe, 36, attended the event with his wife and two young children. He said many working families are struggling to get by, and he felt it was time to start speaking out.
Even some people in professions once considered to be the elite joined the march.
Jeff Archinal, a 29-year-old pediatrician, said he and his wife face huge debts from medical school. He was carrying a sign that read “Yinz are the 99 percent”” a reference to the area term for locals.
Archinal said he’s getting by but is frustrated to see parents who can’t afford health care for themselves, even if their children are covered by government programs.
In Philadelphia, about 500 protesters marched from a camp next to City Hall to the Liberty Bell for the second Saturday in a row. The crowd marched to the beat of a drum and chants such as “No justice, no peace,” and “They get rich by starting wars, we won’t take it anymore,” and carrying signs that read “We the People, not We the Corporations” and “Health care, not warfare.”
Mary Frankland, 60, of Wallingford carried a handmade sign saying “Let’s lay off Congress,” and she and her sister wore yellow T-shirts decrying cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
“I’m sick of CEOs making 300 times as much as the ordinary person. I’m just sick of it. It’s immoral,” Mary Frankland said. “What would they be if they didn’t have the workforce? We all work together in this world. But they get all the money…People aren’t asking for million-dollar salaries, just for a decent living wage.”
“It’s becoming a banana republic,” agreed Jane Frankland, 52, of Springfield in Delaware County.
Arielle Christia, 24, of Springfield in Montgomery County said she was worried about her brother, who had joined the Army and had just been stationed in Colorado.
“He says he wants to serve this country, and I asked him what he was fighting for and I didn’t really get anything,” she said. “That’s concerning.”
Christia said she had graduated a year earlier from Penn State-Abington with a psychology degree but had found nothing in her field and was working a low-paying job at an animal hospital.
“I’m not really all that optimistic. The glass is half-empty,” she said.
The Philadelphia protesters were slated to march through the historic Old City section of the city later Saturday.
In Harrisburg, about 80 people clustered together on the steps of the state Capitol in a 24-hour protest slated to last until midnight, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News reported. Among the group was Gladys Canizarez, 65, of Lower Paxton Township, who said she had been forced into early retirement after being laid off from her job as a bank loan officer.
“The rich are getting richer, and the middle class is disappearing. That’s the problem here,” she said.
(Associated Press writer Ron Todt contributed to this report from Philadelphia.)