WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Three days of diplomacy led to several days of difficulties for some local businesses.
The Africa Leaders Summit was held at the Convention Center from December 13 through 15. However, it led to more than a week of road closures around the building. Plus, metal fencing, concrete barricades and law enforcement blocked streets and sidewalks off to foot traffic.
“It feels like Armageddon. It feels like you’re in some kind of war zone and it was very disheartening for us to witness,” said Sia Alexander, who was in town from Virginia.
Alexander is the curator of Pure Lagos African Art Gallery. She was part of an exhibit at Four Quarters Art and Books, a pop up gallery on 7th Street. The exhibit was intended to be in alliance with the Summit and promote healing and unity.
However, the maze of fencing set up around 7th and L streets prevented many people from getting to the exhibit.
“Attendance was kind of thwarted. We even had people call and say they had to turn back because they just couldn’t deal with it,” she said. “Some who did come had a panic attack from navigating the labyrinth.”
“It’s been challenging,” said Brian Smith, who runs the gallery. “It was very difficult for people to get here and I think there were other people on this street who expressed frustration about that.”
Smith said he is still considering the exhibit, which will be on display through the end of the month, a success despite a lower-than-expected turnout. And, he said he’s grateful for the summit and law enforcement agencies providing security.
Still, he’d like to see more communication between the District and local businesses in the future.
“I think there could’ve been a little bit better communication with businesses,” he said. “I think a lot of the other businesses are just feeling a sense of resignation that this is something that is important to be happening here, but it definitely does look like a ghost town out here today.
The Secret Service and other agencies handled security in order to keep dignitaries safe.
The Summit ended Thursday, however traffic impacts are expected to last through Saturday.