I live in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I spent the entirety of my childhood here, went away to college, and then came back to Pittsburgh to finish. As much as I’ve enjoyed my time here in the great state of Pennsylvania, because I’ve lived here for so long I can attest to the fact that Pittsburgh is known for steel, for sports (Go Steelers!), and sometimes we’re even known for being the birth place to a little known artist by the name of Andy Warhol (it’s true, he went to my high school). What we aren’t known for is being the host and haven for world leaders, but that’s exactly what my hometown is being utilized for this week. The G20 Summit is being held in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center right here in Pittsburgh, a facility which is very close to home. Literally. It’s so close in fact, I could throw a rock from my back porch and President Obama could probably throw it back to me…IT’S SUPER CLOSE!
Shortly after the last G20 Summit, held in London this past April, President Obama offered to host the next event, initially planning to hold it in New York City and coordinate it with the United Nations General Assembly which took place in the earlier part of this week. Unable to coordinate, President Obama announced in May that he would welcome 20 of the worlds most influential leaders to Pittsburgh in order to highlight the city’s economic recovery following the collapse of the steel industry in the latter 20th century, a industry Pittsburgh was primarily known for.
“Pittsburgh stands as a bold example of how to create new jobs and industries while transitioning to a 21st century economy. As a city that has transformed itself from the city of steel to a center for high tech innovation…Pittsburgh will provide both a beautiful backdrop and a powerful example for our work” -President Obama
One would think this impending Summit would bring excitement to Pittsburgh, the same excitement often brought on by the National Football League, right? While excitement is one way to look at this surge of popularity, a lot of the natives I’ve spoken with are reaching towards the total chaos side of the spectrum. Preparations for this event have been ongoing for months, but in this week alone I’ve witnessed more rallies, protests, allegations of police brutality, and boarded up windows than ever before. People have been marching, protesting issues related to the environment, labor, and especially health care. Tear gas has already been unleashed, during the first afternoon of the summit, with police firing in crowds of 700 or more people. Offices have shut down, classes have been canceled, and many natives have fled the city for the duration of the Summit, just to get away from what is being labeled by law enforcement a National Special Security Event.
Despite the Summit being a haven for protests, demonstrations, and interrupting the daily lives of Pittsburgh natives, city officials such as our very young mayor Luke Ravenstahl (he’s only 29!) believe this conference will revitalize Pittsburgh’s image on the world stage. Often characterized as a rusty dying city, the mayor hopes that the media attention, as well as the attendance of world leaders, including our own President, will bring life to the Burgh.
“Since early August, journalists, dignitaries and safety officials have been visiting our city, eating at our restaurants, shopping in our stores and staying in our hotels,” Mr. Ravenstahl, 29, said. “That’s just the short-term gain. In the long-term, you really can’t put a dollar value on the amount of free marketing we’ve received worldwide.”
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