David Usborne: Pittsburgh gears up to stop protesters crashing party

Share
Related Topics

Protesters clashed with riot police on the streets of Pittsburgh last night as world leaders gathered in the city for the G20 summit. There were reports that pepper gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse pockets of demonstrators who had tried, but failed, to reach the convention centre.

Thousands of extra police were on stand-by, helicopters hovered, sirens sounded, and businesses, some with boarded up windows, stood abandoned for the two-day duration. As the Chinese leader Hu Jintao arrived at the Westin Hotel near the conference centre, onlookers were barricaded behind high steel fences and all access to the area was sealed off by empty lorry trailers. Large contingents of riot police and some on horses roamed nearby avenues giving the impression of a city under martial law. A seemingly exaggerated number of police with batons pointed forward and chanting "move, move" broke up a small group of startled demonstrators protesting against repression in Ethiopia.

The residents of Pittsburgh greeted the arrival yesterday of the G20 circus as they would a freak autumn snow storm. For two days, their city has become almost unrecognisable – transformed in a way that may be exhilarating but also deeply inconvenient and possibly destructive. They are meant to be flattered. The White House chose Pittsburgh for the summit because of its success in shaking off the rust of its collapsed steel industry and re-inventing itself with a vibrant knowledge-based economy. Unemployment here is now several points lower than the national rate. It is why last night the G20 leaders, with Barack Obama as host, dined in the shining Phipps Conservatory, a botanical wonderland under glass that boasts near self-sufficiency in electricity and water. The main talks this morning take place downtown under the ski-jump roof of the newly-built David Lawrence Convention Centre, billed as the first such facility to be green certified in the world.

Michelle Obama, moreover, will be doing her best to show the area off to the other very important spouses in town, beginning with a separate dinner yesterday at a farm just outside the city, owned by Teresa Heinz, the wife of Senator John Kerry.

Yet the city did not feel like a place celebrating. Rather it seemed almost to be cowering under the threat of mass protests. Downtown – squeezed into a compact spit of land at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers – was in virtual lockdown. "The G20 is in the house, throwing a party," declared the Resistance Project, one group co-ordinating the protest action. "Let's crash it". Just as the G20 agenda seemed hard to summarise, so too were the motivations of the protesters. The anger of marchers, most of whom had been corralled into controlled areas by police, had to do variously with climate change, bankers' greed, globalisation or just government generally. The fear for cities asked to host summits like this is a repeat of what Seattle experienced at its world trade summit in 1999 which ended with tear gas, millions of dollars in damage to buildings and scores of arrests.

The Resistance Project was urging marchers to target a list of private businesses it says are bent on global hegemony. Obvious among them were branches of McDonalds and Starbucks. But singled out also were some independent businesses like John Byrnes' 24-hour gym. He wonders why: "I'm just as curious as anybody why they're protesting [against] my gym."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Racism in Britain: Labour's leadership candidates explain how they’d tackle racial inequality

Independent Voices
 

We are facing the greatest refugee crisis since WWII

Mary Creagh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'