Friday, September 25, 2009

G-20 - Early Morning Joggers and Some Flicks from "Fortress Pittsburgh"

I'd volunteered a few months ago to help out at the G-20, during a time when I was mostly unemployed. I'd hoped to work in the press center during the week, but I didn't get one of those jobs. I was beginning to think I wouldn't get any job with the G-20, then I got an E-mail to work the 6am-10am shift on 9/25 at the information table at one of the west suburban hotels. At about the same time, I got a really neat part-time contract job, doing various Web work for Chip Walter. So doing a day's volunteering for the G-20 turned out to work well.

I got up very early this morning, and was at the hotel just before 6am. The lobby was still fairly dark, but there a few state troopers and suited men walking around. I quickly found the info table, replenished the freebies from Visit Pittsburgh (mostly maps and local visits guides). There was a binder of various information, including which groups were blocked in each hotel. While I assumed a distant hotel would have the journalists from Wyoming staying at it, this hotel had the delegation from South Africa.

As you might expect, it was pretty dead in the lobby for the first hour. Mostly just security and hotel personnel of various stripes. The first person I greeted turned out to be plain-clothes security and not a South African attache. The next person I tried to talk to spoke to me in Spanish. Luckily, I could say, "Yo hablo muy pecano Espanol" (probably sic - "I speak very little Spanish"), and he laughed and said he didn't speak much English either.

But that meant we probably didn't just have the South African delegation in the hotel. So I went through the binder again, and found we also had the Spanish delegation. I'd had about three years of Spanish in high school, but that was a very long time ago now.

After about an hour, the lobby got very busy very suddenly. About eight Spanish men in jogging clothes and another few in suites came through the lobby and went out the side door. I wasn't sure who was jogging, but I knew typical joggers don't have plainsclothes security.

Some of the South African delegation came into the lobby. I mostly directed people over to the hotel restaurant.

At about 8pm, a woman with a VisitPittsburgh button came over to the desk. Her name was Mina, and she was a Spanish teacher, who'd been providing translation work for the Mexican delegation on Wednesday. I was relieved she was going to be around the rest of the morning. She knew all about Spanish culture and politics. I described what I'd seen earlier, and she said, "Oh that's because President Zapatero is staying here."

A few minutes later, the joggers returned. Mina smiled and said, "Yes, that's the president."

Not long after Mina arrived, another info booth worker, Subash, joined us. Subash worked for the Allegheny Conference, the group that did most of the local coordination for the G-20. We chatted and Subash was sure we'd met before. We concluded that since we live a few miles apart, we've probably seen each other in the local groceries stores.

Very suddenly, the South African delegation was through the lobby so quickly they were practically outside before we saw them, followed by the state troopers. The Spanish delegation came through a few minutes later, and we had enough time to say "Buenos dias," to which the president of Spain said "Gracias." The first ladies of each country left separately a little later with much smaller entourages.

Once it got to be closer to 10, I said goodbye, ran an errand, then went to Ikea to wait for the bus to Pittsburgh. I was curious to see what downtown Pittsburgh was like today. It was a unique experience.

Welcome to Fortress Pittsburgh

A storefront in downtown opened up a "grafitti zone." After walking all through downtown, I left the "Welcome to Fortress Pittsburgh" note.

Looking at Mellon Park Through the Security Fence

A view of Mellon Park through the 8' tall crowd fence.

AlphaGraphics Welcomes the World (another photo in the ongoing irony series)

AlphaGraphics welcomes the world...even though it's closed and boarded up. There were very few businesses in downtown that boarded-up. Maybe only 50 windows were broken, mostly in Bloomfield, Oakland and Shadyside. I don't think there was any damage in downtown itself.

David Lawrence Convention Center - Site of the G-20 Summit (and Netroots Nation), 2009

A view of the David Lawrence Convention Center from the Sixth Street Bridge. Many news outlets reported from the balcony.

Many Travelers Come to Pittsburgh...So Travelers Aid Is Closed

Another irony alert - Travelers Aid also closed down during the G-20

It was pretty quiet in most of downtown between 11:30 and 1:30. Lots of cops and blocked streets. While I certainly understand why we needed the security, it was a pretty massive show of force (in fact, as I type at 11:05 on Friday night, there's a minor demonstration going on in the college area (Oakland) of Pittsburgh surrounded by about 200 cops).

About the only attaches I saw "outside the secure zone" were some of the Chinese delegates, who had some shopping bags with them as they walked back to their hotel.

I'll probably put up more photos tomorrow or Sunday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Take a Deep Breath, Pittsburgh...

So the G-20 starts tomorrow and some of the folks in Pittsburgh are already getting hot and bothered. I mean both some of the anti-G20 protesters and some of the law enforcement agencies. If half of what the City Paper reported on yesterday, about the police harassing protesters who were just buying lunch(!), it bodes badly for the next few days.

Law enforcement certainly has the right to keep the delegates to the G-20 reasonably safe. Blocking off the area around the Convention Center makes sense, and, we know, we're going to have rolling roadblocks in from the airport area. Just stay off the Parkway West and avoid driving into town over the next couple of days.

Protesters have the right for peaceable assembly. So far, word is there's no real problem. Most protesters have quickly made their points and gotten out of the way.

I was in Oakland yesterday, and saw many more police than usual. Now, part of that might have had more to do with Bill Gates making an address up at CMU than "showing presence." But there were all kinds of peaceful protests going on in Oakland, mostly small, but still visible. For the most part, law enforcement just let people be.

I've been to about a dozen protests in Washington over the years and a few here in Pittsburgh. I was also at the Inauguration in January, and saw an amazing show of law enforcement. Well over 1,000,000 people came into Washington, and the vast majority were there to celebrate Obama's inauguration. The 300-500 counter-demonstrators were certainly there, they tried to be loud, and they had their little corner to protest in. Law enforcement pretty much left them alone, so long as they stayed in their designated area. Only a couple of people were arrested that day, of over 1,000,000 people who went to Washington. Damage to the city was minor, and mostly to the grass on the Mall.

It is usually a good thing for people in positions of power to get together to talk directly. Yes, I hope they do talk about the Darfur and poverty and climate change and environmental issues and establishing stronger laws over the banking and investment industries. Just let them talk.

Everyone - residents, protesters, law enforcement, just need to take a deep breath before doing anything over-the-top per the next few days. The eyes of the world are watching. We can try to be reasonable adults or reactionary children. If we are truly trying to reinvent Pittsburgh for a new generation, then showing a rational approach to the G-20 is the best thing to do.

Friday, September 11, 2009

There Is Also Something So Unamerican...

...about calling your president "a liar" from the floor the the Congress.

Democrats had MANY more reasons to do that during the Bush administration, and refrained from doing so.

As the latest viral Obama poster says, "Sush.../let the grown-ups talk!"

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

There Is Something So UnAmerican...

...about refusing to let your child hear the President speak.

We are being taken over by the Marching Morons. It's completely disgusting.

I think Reagan spoke on closed circuit TV at least once when Leslie was in grade school. While he was far from my favorite president, no one complained about that he spoke to the kids. He was the elected president, after all.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dead People Server Turns Fifteen

Dead People Server was invented at some point in the late summer of 1994 by Richard Holmes. I'm not 100% sure of the date, as I didn't become the curator until March 1997. So this is, roughly, the 15th anniversary of Dead People Server. That makes DPS something of a senior citizen among Web sites, but what-the-hell; neither retired nor expired!

Laurie Mann, curator