Conference to disrupt city traffic

Security around Annapolis to affect air, land, sea vehicles

Annapolis Mideast Conference

November 25, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

Security will be heightened on the land, sea and air around the Naval Academy on Tuesday for the international peace conference behind its iron gates, though Annapolis officials predict that the city won't see much of an impact.

"We might see some people that have to move their cars and stuff, but it's a relatively short period of time. We've got one day to deal with," said Ray Weaver, a city spokesman.

Vehicle traffic will be restricted on about five blocks of downtown streets at the foot of the academy grounds. King George Street will be closed from Maryland Avenue to Gate One, the academy's main entrance, from 7 a.m. to about 3 p.m., along with the first blocks of Randall and East streets.

Those streets are lined with historic homes, though many have "For Rent" signs in the windows. Residents didn't seem concerned about the disruption to their routine.

The Israelis and Palestinians "have been fighting for thousands of years - anything that can help is a good thing," said Bill Schaffner, who said he was hoping to rent one of his properties to someone in town for the conference. "The traffic problems, that comes with the territory" of living in Annapolis.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary flight restriction order for the skies over Annapolis from 8:45 a.m. to 1:05 p.m. Tuesday. The order essentially curbs noncommercial and non-emergency flight within a 10-nautical- mile radius of the city.

In a wider 30-nautical-mile radius that includes Baltimore, general aviation flights will be required to operate with a flight plan and in communication with air traffic controllers. Certain activities will be prohibited during those hours, including flight training, practice instrument approaches and parachute and glider operations. The order will not affect commercial airline and air cargo operations.

Water traffic will also be restricted. The Coast Guard has imposed a "security zone" prohibiting movement of all vessels into and out of Spa Creek and the Severn River and in the waterways around the academy.

Only one group had applied for and received a permit to stage a rally by the close of business Wednesday, when city offices closed for the holiday weekend. Protesters from the pro-Israel group Shalom International plan to set up at Gate One along Randall Street tomorrow and Tuesday. The group's president, Robert P. Kunst, says he expects hundreds of supporters, some of whom will have megaphones and wave signs.

Classes at the Naval Academy were not expected to be interrupted, officials said. Some midshipmen were expected to monitor news coverage of the conference from their classrooms. The grounds will not be open to visitors tomorrow or Tuesday.

Officers from a slew of local and federal police agencies will be on hand, including city, county and state police and the Secret Service, Department of Defense, U.S. Marshals and Naval Criminal Investigative Service, though officials would not discuss details. A command center will be established to share information, said Officer Kevin Freeman, a spokesman for the Annapolis Police Department.

"There's going to be a significant increase in personnel," said Gary S. Simpson, director of the city's Office of Domestic Preparedness.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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