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Public Safety Officials Advise Commuters To Avoid Downtown During President Trump's Visit

Jared Murphy
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert addresses a crowd about public safety issues this Wednesday at a press conference on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. President Donald Trump is expected to speak at a downtown shale conference.

City of Pittsburgh public safety officials had some advice for Downtown commuters hoping to come to work when President Trump visits Wednesday: try to avoid it.

“I must stress to anyone coming Downtown on Wednesday: Please be patient and understand that there is going to be traffic congestion,” said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich during a Monday afternoon press conference.

"If you can work from home, do so,” advised police Commander Ed Trapp.

Trump will be addressing a conference of shale-drilling executives at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon. But rolling road closures in the area will start around midnight the night before, with the closure of 10th Street — which runs beneath the convention center itself — from the Allegheny River to Penn Avenue. Closures will reach their peak at 9 a.m. Wednesday, when the 10th Street bypass will be closed from Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt bridges all the way to 11th Street.

Fort Duquesne Boulevard and some other streets immediately beside the convention center will also be closed.

Pittsburgh Public Schools also announced that 12 schools with large numbers of students who travel through Downtown will be closed on Wednesday to "ensure student safety." More than 2,000 students will be impacted. The schools include: Allderdice High School, Brashear High School, CAPA 6-12, Carrick High School, Milliones 6-12, Obama 6-12, Pittsburgh Online Academy Drop-in Center, Oliver Citywide Academy, Perry High School, Science and Technology Academy 6-12, Pittsburgh Student Achievement Center 6-12, and Westinghouse 6-12.

Officials say they are expecting protests on Wednesday, and that they have spoken directly with activists. “We’re very tolerant of protests,” said Trapp. But “one thing we won’t tolerate however, is violent protesting and damage.”

Officials said they had learned “lessons” from Trump’s previous visit to the Shale Insight conference, where he appeared as a candidate in 2016. A confrontation between Trump supporters and Trump foes, with police in the scrum, took place beneath the convention center. That’s one reason the street beneath the center will be closed this time, Hissrich said.

After the 2016 event, there had been criticism about the fact that police were not in riot gear. Trapp said that officers would again be deployed “in their usual everyday uniform” but added, “We will have stuff available in case things would take a turn that we don’t expect them to take. … If officers go to gear, that means that things got off the rails somewhere.”

Credit Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich discussing traffic and protests during President Trump's Wednesday visit.

Hissrich said that hosting Trump’s visit “is going to be expensive” for the city but that there was little hope of recouping the cost. The visit is an official White House event, not a campaign stop, he noted. And he said the city had not been able to recover any of the security costs for visits Trump made as a 2016 candidate. City officials estimate the costs of two of his visits that year at $164,000 for police overtime.

“That issue was brought up last time while Trump was in town,” he said. “Let’s just say the bill went nowhere, except the bill came back to us.”

Separately, officials spoke briefly about security for this weekend’s commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the Tree of Life shooting. A number of memorial events are planned for this weekend, capped by a Sunday service at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. Zone 4 Commander Ed Herman said that those vents “will be covered with high police presence. We’ve hired off-duty officers to be at every event in a plainclothes capacity and a uniformed capacity.”

He said he was not aware of any security threats.