First day of G-20 uneventful on Northside


So far, all is quiet on the northern front.

The G-20 Economic Summit rolled into a cloudy, humid Pittsburgh without much pizzazz, contrary to the general air of expected catastrophe.

Protesters did turn out Downtown, and an unauthorized march in Lawrenceville drew a large police presence. The Post-Gazette reported that the police used tear gas to force the group of nearly 500 to disperse.

But the most exciting thing on East Ohio Street today wasn’t a rowdy group of G-20 protesters overflowing from Downtown, but rather a group of Verizon employees dressed in bright red T-shirts and white hardhats handing out flyers on FiOS cable TV and Internet, which the City recently approved.

They said they would be walking around spreading the word on FiOS for another week and a half.

Many East Ohio Street shops were closed, and three — Tom Matrascia’s Hair Fashions, Frozen In Time and Ike’s Barber & Styling Salon — were even boarded up, mirroring the scene in much of Downtown.

The Western Avenue business district seemed deserted, but unlike East Ohio Street, no businesses had “Closed for the G-20” signs hanging on their doors.

Several families and groups of people dressed in Pirates jerseys made their way down to PNC Park from East Allegheny, stopping to take pictures of the camouflaged HumVees, SWAT members, out-of-town police officers and National Guardsman blocking both the Andy Warhol and the Roberto Clemente bridges into Downtown.

Elsewhere around the southernmost areas of the Northside, HumVees and National Guardsmen stood watch at security stations — there were two on Chestnut Street alone — and said “hello” to passersby with smiles on their faces.

Bail Out the People, a job advocacy group, was granted a protest permit for East Park by Pittsburgh, but so far has not shown up to demonstrate.

Member Sharon Balck said they originally wanted to use the park as camping overflow, but Wylie Baptist Church in the Hill District provided enough room — and the city refused to allow overnight camping anywhere in Allegheny Commons park.

Balck said she was “not sure” of upcoming protest plans, and that currently no protests or rallies are in the works.

“Each day our group plans something different,” Balck said.

The only other indicator on the Northside that Pittsburgh has been declared to be in a state of emergency — something usual for large, tight-security events — is the tall, barbed wire-topped fence around Allegheny Center Alliance Church in Allegheny Commons, behind which a portable shower truck sits parked, and police officers can find a place to rest, get a bite to eat and down some coffee between shifts.

East Ohio Street businesses that closed include: Grace Period, H.A. Smith & Son Uniforms, Karen Chiaramonte Insurance, Kaufmean Jewelers, Mom’s Care Christian Daycare, Tom Matrascia’s Hair Fashions and Frozen In Time.

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