Pittsburgh bank: We let ‘Occupy’ use park because we were ‘frightened’

David Martosko Executive Editor
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A month-long standoff between the Bank of New York Mellon and Occupy Pittsburgh reached a courtroom on Tuesday, with bank Chairman Vincent Sands testifying that his company originally let activists set up camp in a park adjacent to its flagship skyscraper because of fear of what might happen otherwise.

Occupiers took over the BNY Mellon-owned park, called the Mellon Green, on Oct. 15.

“We permitted the occupiers to utilize the green,” Sands testified, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We were frightened there could be confrontation. We thought the best thing for employees and clients was to let them use the area.”

By mid-December, he said, the bank feared it had created a monster.

“We thought we were losing control of the property,” Sands said, adding that legal action only became necessary after the occupiers began erecting  “permanent structures” on the green.

The activists’ lawyers argued that the park was, in effect, a public “urban open space.”

“We think it’s a public forum,” argued University of Pittsburgh law professor Jules Lobel, who is representing Occupy Pittsburgh. “And therefore, they don’t have the absolute right to do what they want with their property.”

But the bank’s attorneys countered that it was private property. WTAE-TV reported that the bank can evict anyone it hasn’t invited to stay, and typically closes down the park walkways during the winter.

An Associated Press report quoted Daniel Smith, a lawyer representing BNY Mellon, telling Judge Christine A. Ward that “this is a case that everyone who owns property can understand.”

“Under the law,” said Smith, “it is unfair for any political or social movement to seize the property of others.”

Testimony will continue Wednesday.

David is The Daily Caller’s executive editor. Follow him on Twitter