2009-10-01 / Local & State

G-20 Lockdown Gone, Pittsburgh Back To Normal

By Vicki Smith ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Merchants and motorists reclaimed their city Saturday as a vast police presence dissolved, barricades vanished and traffic started flowing after a gathering of world leaders that had turned downtown Pittsburgh into a wellprotected fortress.

Just hours after the Group of 20 summit at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center ended Friday and the world leaders departed with their entourages, the army of officers from around the country began to disband. By early evening, public works crews had begun clearing and cleaning streets that had been shut down for two days.

“I don’t know what they actually accomplished, but I’m glad it’s over,’’ said Jeffrey Bauer, a U.S. Postal Service worker who has delivered a downtown route for three years.

During the two-day summit, mail carriers drove with colorcoded sheets in their windows to get through security checkpoints. They also traveled in pairs to prevent vandalism of their vehicles by anarchists who were among the thousands of G-20 protesters in town.

“Everywhere we went, we saw National Guard and state police on the corners, officers walking down the street two by two,’’ Bauer said. “It reminded me of a movie, like ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ or some kind of science fiction movie where the town’s empty. It seemed to me there were more police than citizens.’’

Many downtown businesses closed voluntarily, some of the smaller ones boarding their windows with plywood.

Bill Martinko, owner of Galardi’s 30-Minute Cleaners, now wonders if he should have bothered.

“I thought it would have been really bad, but nothing happened downtown at all,’’ he said. “I wasted all that money boarding up.’’

Martinko estimates closing on his two busiest days, Thursday and Friday, cost him at least $1,500. But he has had some extra business in recent weeks from Secret Service agents, who preferred his lower rates to those of the hotels, and he expects to make up his losses soon, with the weather turning cooler and people breaking out their autumn attire.

Cardamone’s Hair Salon started getting cancellations Wednesday afternoon when security began to intensify, and receptionist Andrea Ryan estimates it lost thousands of dollars of income. Ryan was relieved no downtown businesses were damaged by protesters and marveled at the police presence.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, even with everything else that goes on down here – Steelers parades, Penguins parades,’’ she said. “We get hundreds of thousand of people in crowds and there are no problems.’’

Tensions flared up at times, but police quickly contained the unrest and minimized property damage.

Thousands of peaceful protesters marched through the city legally Friday with what appeared to be an equal number of stone-faced riot police monitoring their every move from sidewalks and intersections. Later, however, hundreds of protesters clashed with police in the city’s Oakland section, near the University of Pittsburgh.

Police said Saturday that 110 people were arrested Friday night after the summit, mostly for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, bringing the arrest total to 193.

It was the second night of conflict: an unpermitted afternoon march in the city’s Lawrenceville section was halted Thursday almost as soon as it began, and police spent hours trying to disperse the protesters with earsplitting sirens, smoke and pepper spray. Riot officers pushed the crowd back several blocks until it eventually broke up, but the protesters reformed their ranks later that night in Oakland, where dozens were arrested.

Allison Weinsweig, who was in the neighborhood visiting her mother, awoke to sirens, loudspeakers and “mob noise’’ from running protesters.

“I didn’t expect it in front of my mother’s window,’’ said Weinsweig. “It was frightening because it was so close and so big.’’

When she heard about broken windows in businesses from Kinko’s to KFC, Weinsweig wondered whether things could have been worse. She also wondered what message the protesters were trying to convey by targeting companies she considers apolitical.

“If it were me, and I wanted to make a statement,’’ she said, “I’d want people to know why I targeted the place.’’

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