For lack of a better lede, since this writer's mind is exhausted, a picture is worth a thousand words. As someone who spent the better part of the day schlepping around downtown Pittsburgh, you just have to take issue with the point of view expressed in the photos by Bill Perry. Pull back on the lens, change your point of view, and a different "picture" emerges from Day One.
What do you see?
Yes, peaceful protest deserves access to those in power, but that is not the issue here.
Scarier "up close" ?
Over two thousand journalists from all over the world are in Pittsburgh, and they were about the only people in evidence on Day One, other than state and local police and National Guard in the city on Wednesday night and Thursday. The city was totally buttoned down, all entrances to the convention center sealed off, and protest groups assigned to two gathering points "behind" the sealed perimeter. Pedestrian walkways were in place in the downtown area, but no one was using them as most citizens decided to stay home and many businesses and even churches were either boarded up or closed for three days. A local resident expressed dismay that I was not "seeing the real Pittsburgh," explaining that it is the epicenter of a 2 million person workforce that was not in evidence.
Don't bite the hand that feeds you
There were so many journalists, that I decided to become a "lost tourist" at the checkpoints. I could have been a terrorist with my stuffed backpack. I even tested a few checkpoints by driving my car "accidentally" into restricted space to see what would happen. The point is that nothing happened. All security was cordial, but firm. I was not harassed, threatened or in any way intimidated. Cops, one Chicago cop in particular, pulled out maps and wrote down directions for me. My point is that I acted in a civil manner and was treated accordingly.
There was an eerie quality to the city that day. It reminded me of a day in my childhood when Martin Luther King marched on the Chicago neighborhood of Jefferson Park where my family lived. We were hardly racists, but my Dad was worried about possible violence, so he took us all to Wisconsin for an outing. Most of the neighborhood left town in similar fashion. It was like waiting for a hurricane that never materialized. When we got home, the only thing out of the ordinary were a few candy wrappers scattered on the lawn.
Liberty Street..I thought about that
The Pittsburgh City Paper (the local arts, entertainment and political rag) seemed to have a good grip on the lead-in and expectations from police and demonstrators.
Greetings global overlords. Welcome to Pittsburgh. How soon will you be leaving? Part of the problem is the protesters you're bringing with you. Another part, though, is that in some ways, it's hard to tell who the "real" dangerous anarchists are. Either way, though, it's the rest of us who will be stick with the mess.
I have no idea what Pittsburgh will look like in a few days, and I am not on the ground there now, but I can tell you my view and impressions of DAY ONE are different than those of Mr. Perry, but then he is an anti-war activist and I am just a reporter.
I can tell you that I saw a group of monks protesting on behalf of Burma just off of Liberty Street and a silent group from Ethiopia. While I was taking photos there a video camera crew from Italy showed up, and suddenly a noisy protest emerged from about twenty "bystanders." People were clearly positioned for the cameras. It was momentarily noisy until the cameras were gone, but non-threatening, and the police just watched.
Peaceful monks are ignored
There were movements of police in full riot gear in and around the entrances used by the dignitaries and it was intimidating to observe, but nothing like what I have observed in the third world.