Officials in Frederick County are hoping this weekend’s G-8 summit will be a financial windfall and not an onslaught of unruly protesters.
As the world’s economic powers gather at the secluded presidential retreat Camp David on Friday and Saturday, local officials hope the deluge of visitors will boost the local economy.
“Anytime you have the national spotlight on our little bit of paradise, which is a suburb of Washington, D.C., near the presidential retreat, the economics of this are great,” Thurmont Mayor Marty Burns said. “We want people to come here and spend their money, even the protesters. We want to show what a great county we have. We want to put our best foot forward.”
President Barack Obama will be at Camp David — the country retreat nestled in Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont — to play host to international leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom. With them will come an deluge of international and national media and the staff representing leaders from around the world.
But as with other G-8 summits in the past, this one is expected to bring out protest groups angry about the world’s economic climate. Historically, some G-8 protests have resulted in riots that disrupted businesses.
Already, a Counter-G-8 Community Bloc Party, is planned from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at Baker Park in Frederick. Billed as an event for “radicals and residents alike,” the group sponsoring the gathering, Occupy Frederick, said they have planned a day of games, food, face painting and guest speakers.
A Occupy G-8 People’s Summit also will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the C. Burr Artz Library in Frederick. The event will focus on ending proverty and financial debt, as well as issues surrounding trade agreements and taxation.
Occupy Baltimore has announced they will have protests in downtown Thurmont on Friday and Saturday.
Frederick city police met with the Downtown Frederick Partnership this past week to discuss how businesses can prepare for the possibility of unruly protesters. In turn, the downtown partnership contacted businesses with suggestions.
They urged businesses to “be prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” according to an email. Businesses also were urged to have an evacuation plan in place in the event of large-scale protests.
They’ve been asked not to place sandwich boards or other unsecured materials, such a tables and chairs, outside their establishments, because they can be used to damage property, an email states. The downtown partnership also urged businesses worried that protesters could become disorderly to close for the duration of the summit.
Frederick Mayor Randy McClement (R) said city police have been working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on developing operational plans to protect residents, businesses and visitors.
Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler said his department also is working with federal, state and county law enforcement. They have collaborated on a plan to protect the town. However, law enforcement in Frederick and Thurmont are not disclosing specifics about their plans for security purposes.
Richard Griffin, director of Economic Development for the City of Frederick, said businesses throughout the county should be prepared for demonstrators.
“The most important thing is that people are safe and our community is protected,” Griffin said. “Hopefully it’s going to be peaceful shoppers. I’ve talked to many businesses that say they will remain open, but are prepared to close their doors if they have to.”
But Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said their fears might be unwarranted. Young points out the NATO summit is scheduled to take place immediately following the G-8 — on Sunday and Monday in Chicago. Large demonstrations already are being planned.
“A lot of people are focused on Chicago,” Young said. “My understanding is a lot of people will be going there.”
Griffin said despite the worry about protesters, the G-8 is a chance to show the world how great the community of Frederick is.
“First and foremost the city is the largest, closest city to Camp David,” he said. “It’s kind of viewed as the host city and we’re getting media attention from around the world. This is a great opportunity to show the world that Frederick is a great community with a lot to offer. It’s a great opportunity to highlight this great community.
However, Burns disagreed with Griffin’s statements that Frederick is the host city for the G-8.
“I think actually it’s laughable,” Burns said. “The summit is going on at Camp David. I’m amazed they are actually talking about Frederick. I think [visitors, protesters] won’t even know where Frederick is. They know where Camp David is. I could be wrong. But Frederick is 20-some miles away from Camp David. I think what he said is grossly inacturate.”