G20 Summit turns all eyes onto the city
We learned this past week that Pittsburgh is not London. This April, the previous year’s G20 location saw several thousands of protesters along with a very violent police response that ultimately resulted in two deaths and a bank robbery that occurred during the ensuing chaos.
The police presence that Pittsburgh residents saw was much stronger and more forceful than it probably needed to be for the number of actual protesters — compared to gawkers, onlookers, and people with cameras (i.e. students) — who actually took part in the demonstrations and marches that were directed at world leaders.
The experience of walking around inside the security perimeter downtown was like starring in an end-of-the-world film, with the National Guard on every corner and tall steel barricades lining the streets. While several University of Pittsburgh students are still shouting about the injustices that occurred on their campus, we think it is likely both the protests and resulting police behavior will fade.
Pittsburgh — Sixburgh — has recently recovered from the riots after the Steelers won the Super Bowl in February. Once again, in response to the G20, crowds of people streamed through Oakland, causing inexplicable property damage in the forms of rocks being thrown at storefront windows due to people’s heightened emotional state and mob mentality.
While McDonald’s and Subway can certainly recover from a few smashed windows, local establishments like Pamela’s will find recovery a bit harder. This local Pittsburgh business, which actually received a lot of great press this week from leaders’ fantastic experiences with the pancakes, was unnecessarily targeted, undermining the whole point behind the protesters’ actions, which were supposedly demonstrations against big business.
It is certainly important for people in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas to come together and protest to take a stand for what they believe in, and we are glad to know that Pittsburghers have an opinion about something other than football. But just as we stated after the Steelers riots, breaking windows and causing other violence is not the correct way to show what you believe.
Carnegie Mellon carried itself incredibly well through this past week. Right off the heels of the Gates Hillman dedication, the university transformed itself into an efficient machine for dealing with Pittsburgh being in the spotlight on the world stage.
The university successfully and safely hosted both the richest man in the world and the prime minister of Australia, with the help, of course, of the large numbers of police and security officers that could be found in every corner of the campus. Police officers could also be seen being transported around Oakland in PAT buses marked as “special.”
There was a great deal of uncertainty and wild anticipation throughout the campus. Students and faculty alike lamented the late notice about building and road closings, with some professors even insisting at the beginning of last week that they would still be holding class, only to be undercut by official e-mails later.
However, campus administration cannot be faulted, since they were likely awaiting information from government officials. Safety for both students and staff as well as the visiting world leaders had to be considered when making the closings, even if teachers would have preferred to keep teaching.
Road and building closings happened mostly as planned, and the campus generally maintained a level of sanity throughout Thursday and Friday as the various G20-related events were occurring downtown. While individual students likely took part in the protests, Carnegie Mellon as a whole was not associated with the rowdy nature of the crowds passing through Oakland and downtown. Instead, the campus maintained control over events at and around Carnegie Mellon.
While there was a pervasive campus sentiment of what’s-that-junk-on-the-fence, the art project that created a haven for education, discourse, and free speech was successful.
The project was actually approved beforehand by the administration, and was a unique way of speaking out against the G20 in a manner that could not be found elsewhere in the city.
However, it might have been nice to get more of the campus community involved, or at least aware of, the project’s intentions. If more students across multiple disciplines were involved in and made aware of the faux-tent city’s intentions and creation, the shantytown could have been taken a bit more seriously by the campus community as a whole.
Many students were unhappy with the project’s placement at the Fence, believing that that was not the appropriate place for the project and as students of a privately owned university, they should not have to see the demonstration on the campus. They were not in support of the message that the shantytown stood for and did not approve of the message being advertised at one of the campus’s most visible locations.
However, all appropriate steps were taken for those associated with the shantytown to take control of the Fence, and we are proud that Carnegie Mellon students found a peaceful, productive, and sanctioned way to question the G20.
With the White House already planning to demand nuclear inspections in Iran, progress was indeed made at the G20.
We aren’t so sure, however, that the limited time spent locked up in the Convention Center was the sole source of these developments. Our world leaders should continue to communicate regularly, with events like the G20 Summits acting as milestones to solidify the work that they’ve already been doing.
In terms of the lasting impacts of the G20 Summit, it is hard to say as of now what the outcome will be. It is too soon to see if any of the decisions made at the summit will be cemented and expanded upon in the future by the nations and leaders involved.
It is safe to say, however, that Pittsburgh’s reputation has risen in the eyes of many on the national and international stages.
Though it is unfortunate that the violence of the riots had to take precedence in the news over the good work that the city was doing during the Summit, the important leaders that visited surely noticed and appreciated the work that was put into the Summit.