Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pittsburgh a "Steel City" of Security for G20 Summit

Again the enforcement goes on an overdrive. Considering the Obama Adminstration had already decided not to do a separate media accreditation to NGOs, mounting the steel city with steel is unduly.


* Pittsburgh a "steel city" of security for G20 summit

* Locals worried about business, traffic and football

By Michelle Nichols

Dubbed the "steel city" for its industrial history, Pittsburgh will live up to its name for a different reason when world leaders meet amid heavy security on Thursday and Friday for the Group of 20 (G20) summit.

Thousands of additional police have been brought in to the western Pennsylvania city and tall steel fencing is being erected along streets around the convention center where 19 leaders of developed and developing countries will meet.

While presidents and prime ministers will be discussing issues such as rebalancing the world economy and tackling climate change, Pittsburgh locals are worried about violent anti-G20 protests and disruption to business and traffic.

"It's a positive thing for Pittsburgh to be shown, but the downtown businesses are afraid. They really don't know what to expect," said Phillip Injeian, 54, a violin maker whose shop near the G20 headquarters is shadowed by a security fence.

Injeian said he plans to have classical music students playing on the street outside his shop on Thursday and Friday.

"I feel like that will soothe the beast," he said as he ate pizza in Mama Pina's Pizzeria down the street from his shop.

But protesters are not alone in wanting to send a message to G20 leaders. More than 25 religious leaders are also meeting in Pittsburgh to "remind world leaders that the most important indicator of economic recovery should be what happens to hungry and poor people."


Nick Buffone, 56, the owner of Mama Pina's Pizzeria, said he is not sure if he will be able to get into downtown Pittsburgh to open his restaurant while the G20 is on.

"Nobody's explaining anything to us," he said. "I don't think it's benefiting us at all. People don't know what to expect."

Protests against a G20 meeting in London earlier this year turned violent when thousands of people took to the streets. Protesters are planning anti-G20 marches on Thursday and Friday.

Concrete barriers are already in place outside the nearby PNC Financial Services Group Inc (PNC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) building, suggested by anti-capitalist protesters as a target along with other companies such as Starbucks (SBUX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and McDonald's (MCD.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

Pittsburgh police say 65 agencies were involved in G20 security but declined to detail how many officers will be on the streets.

But some of Pittsburgh's 313,000 residents seem more concerned about how their beloved Steelers football team, six time winners of the Super Bowl, will fare on the weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the nearby Strip District, Jim Pierce, 66, manages a Steelers shop and said that while he wasn't expecting many customers while the G20 was on, he hoped a world leader might become a fan.

"We would like to see someone stop here (to buy Steelers merchandise)," he said, laughing.

"I have seen nothing that will make us believe there's going to be problems (with protesters)," he said. "There were 300,000 people here for the Super Bowl parade in February and there was less talk of problems." (Editing by Mark Egan and Paul Simao)