A Quick, Frontlines G-20 Report

The airspace has been filled with unusual helicopter activity this week. It’s the pilots and air-traffic controllers running ‘familiarization’ flights, to get everyone used to flying in the tightly restricted airspace. And to be sure, the FAA is closing airspace all around the G-20 sites. It’s a taste of what I’d call the ‘total-security state.’

This is not to neglect the tightly restricted ground space as well in the total-security state. I mean, there’s security out the wazoo. Many streets are lined with concrete Jersey Barriers. There are traffic-control points being set up all over the place. There are hundreds of remote TV cameras mounted on buildings and tall poles. Big Brother is watching. If you don’t have a reason to be near a G-20 site, you won’t even get close.

Don’t try sailing on any of Pittsburgh’s three rivers, either. Long stretches of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers are closed to traffic. This in one of America’s busiest inland port cities.

In addition to about 1,000 of Pittsburgh’s Finest, there are hundreds of additional police coming in from nearby jurisdictions. There are 1,200 extra state troopers. And the city and environs are hosting about 2,200 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Plus, of course, there are multitudes of Secret Service, FBI, U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security, U.S. Customs, ‘other domestic security forces’ and international security from the visiting nations. Beaucoups des gendarmes…

With all the security and road closures, the local county executive advised everyone to ‘be creative.’ Yeah, right. Once people around Pittsburgh got a feel for what it would be like downtown during the G-20, common sense prevailed. Really, what would you do?

I was downtown yesterday and saw that many businesses have removed everything from the display windows. Some businesses (especially banks) have placed plywood over the glass. A few businesses covered their windows (or plywood) with Pittsburgh Steelers posters. Really, who’s going to toss a brick at a photo of Franco Harris or Troy Polamalu?