Outside G-8 summit, few protesters

Local police say they prepared for the worst

May 18, 2012|By John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun

THURMONT — — A high-profile meeting of world leaders at Camp David drew only sparse protests Friday despite extensive security preparations by local officials.

Frederick County closed public schools Friday and police said they felt obligated to "prepare for the worst," but ultimately only about 50 Occupy movement participants showed at a "People's Summit" held in a library in advance of the Group of Eight industrialized nations meeting.

By midday, fewer than half a dozen people picketed sidewalks in nearby Thurmont. The G-8 leaders met miles away, behind security barriers at the presidential retreat in Catoctin Mountain Park.

"Those mountains are beautiful and scenic, but you go up there and you pretty much feel like you're excluded from the rest of civilization," said Dylan Petrohilos, a 23-year-old Occupy Frederick organizer. "It makes it harder to demonstrate in this area."

The G-8 summit, at which President Barack Obama is hosting leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia, is the largest such meeting ever held at Camp David: It's the first time more than two visiting heads of state have stayed there.

After the meetings conclude Saturday, leaders will travel to Chicago for a NATO summit, where protests are expected to be more robust.

Obama was to host a dinner for the leaders Friday at Laurel Lodge, the main cabin, and lead a conversation about international hot spots Iran, Syria and North Korea.

In a series of meetings Saturday, the conversation was expected to turn to the European economy and the escalating debt crisis in Greece.

Each leader will have his or her own cabin, said Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, and will "have the opportunity, obviously, to meet informally on the margins of the meetings and to take full advantage of the grounds at Camp David."

Aside from a marked increase in police presence, there was little indication in Frederick or Thurmont that anything unusual was happening on the mountain. Flags of the G-8 nations flew over Thurmont's public square; a handful of LaRouche movement activists set up a table on Main Street.

The LaRouche supporters said they were protesting the administration's decision to proceed with a missile defense shield in Europe and calling on Congress to increase banking regulations. But they spent much of the afternoon giving interviews to a growing number of local news media representatives who showed up to cover the event.

"There are more reporters here than people," said Asuka Saito, who came from Virginia to protest the meeting.

The relative quiet appeared to undermine concerns from local police about the cost of establishing security for the event. Frederick County Sheriff Charles "Chuck" Jenkins had called on the federal government to chip in for part of the cost of the preparations.

Jenkins had said it was his responsibility to plan for the worst. But in the end there were far more police than protesters on the streets. On Friday evening, the sheriff's office reported that "the situation in the county is calm," that there had been no major incidents and that traffic was moving smoothly.

Jenkins bantered politely with about half a dozen Occupy protesters sitting in the parking lot of a grocery store just outside of town.

Officers stood on a corner near Thurmont's Bank of America branch, meanwhile, and roared through intersections on motorcycles. Police cruisers from different jurisdictions patrolled the county.

For Jay Angell, owner of a secondhand shop a few miles from Camp David, the scene outside the meeting was about what he expected.

A lifelong resident, he has seen his share of high-level officials roll through town. The biggest problem for Angell: The hype surrounding the event appeared to scare people — potential customers — out of the town center.

"The townspeople are just laid back, waiting for it to leave," Angell, who own the Twice as Nice shop on Main Street. "No one's going to come to Thurmont — a small town like this — to do anything major."



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