The Pope is coming. And so, unlike the earthquake and two hurricanes Philadelphia has recently weathered, everything must be shut down. And what’s not shut down must be locked down.
Center City looks quite different without any cars parked on the streets. Or Big Belly trash cans on street corners. Or mailboxes. But sidewalks are lined with portapotties as far as the eye can see. It’s more than a little ridiculous.
The Pope is holding mass on the Franklin Parkway, so it makes some sense to prepare the immediately surrounding area. But this same area, earlier this month, hosted the Made in America concert without such extreme measures. The Beatles may be bigger than Jesus, but the Pope is still bigger than Beyoncé.
There’s some question of separation of church and state, though it’s not too big a deal for me. The Pope is a foreign dignitary. There were some special arrangements made when, e.g. Nelson Mandela gave a speech here. And arrangements might also be made if Richard Dawkins were popular enough to draw such crowds. What’s unprecedented is the scope of the restrictions.
A line has been crossed where the inconveniences of this visit are being imposed on everyone in the city, not just the people living immediately adjacent to the planned events. Subway and bus service is all carved up. (And originally with doubled fares, although they seem to have backed down from that.) Personal vehicles will be forbidden from entering the Center City area for the entire weekend. This isn’t a matter of higher than usual traffic slowing things down. This is the city simply shutting down. Giving up.
Here’s a page of maps showing the ever expanding no fun zone.
The city has promised they aren’t paying for any of this. I remain deeply suspicious that the IOC accountant was hired to reach that conclusion.