11/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

G-20 Diary: Hitting the Fan

Our neighborhood is well used to the sound of helicopters, with three major hospitals within a mile radius. But that occasional sound is now almost constant -- not with medical 'copters as much as the military, police and "news" variety.

I figured to check out the action by heading downtown, closer to the actual G-20 site. I was well aware that lots of streets and even more businesses would be closed, but a lot of the owner-operated small shops and restaurants were hoping to make a buck, including the best hot dog joint in town. Few potential customers though. I mainly saw barricades and cops. Cops from Tucson and Milwaukee, in riot gear. State police on horseback. Cops from nearby cities on bicycles. K-9 crews. But nary a protester. My big excitement was seeing Yo-Yo Ma getting out of a van and slinging his cello case on his back.

Since all the downtown buses were on screwy detours, I figured the quicker way home was to cross the Allegheny and get a convenient belt-loop sort of bus, which is running normally.


As soon as I reached the bus stop, a fellow bus-seeker told me he'd just heard of demonstrations broken up by teargas, along the residential streets where our bus was supposed to go. Not that I know entirely what's going on, but apparently a lot of protesters decided to walk down the narrow avenues heading into downtown Pittsburgh -- assuming they could get through the phalanx of police, National Guardsmen, Army Reserves, horses, dogs, Jersey barriers and fences. Since they couldn't, many came back to my neighborhood. The Post-Gazette reported that 400 of them were back in Friendship Park. Yep, they were there regrouping and chanting "Our streets," but the tiny plaza they were clustered in couldn't hold 200 people on a good day.

The news media certainly were correct about the damage to the local branch of a bank that, by most measures, is a good corporate citizen. The ladies working at the bakery next door were seriously outraged by the rudeness of of the protesters and mocked their "peace" talk. Throwing a public trash receptacle (paid for by local businesses like the bakery) at a small historic building does not impress any of the locals for smarts if the demonstrators were trying to make a point.

There's more inanity (not a typo) going on if you want to follow it at the Post-Gazette's site, or any "news" outlet that likes to showcase violence rather than what people are actually saying.