Thurmont officials are taking no chances in the event that demonstrators descend on the town to protest the G-8 economic summit in May.
Discussions are under way to prepare the town of 6,175 residents for the possibility protesters will accompany the summit meeting May 18 and 19 at the nearby presidential retreat Camp David. Protesters have demonstrated at previous G-8 economic summit meetings in the U.S. and around the world.
“We’re working with all the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies,” said Thurmont Police Chief Gregory Eyler. “We’re also working with the Secret Service, State Police and Park Police. We haven’t gotten any intelligence information about anything yet. But you plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
Eyler said no specific plans or decisions have been made yet.
“We’re just getting everybody together,” he said.
Demonstrators will be allowed to protest, Eyler said, but permits will required.
Thurmont Mayor Marty Burns said the U.S. Secret Service is tracking the potential for any protesters.
“They’re tracking it pretty closely, so we hopefully will know in advance,” he said.
At the request of the Secret Service, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced this week on its website that Cunningham Falls State Park near Camp David will be closed to the public from May 17 through 19. The park will reopen at 8 a.m. May 20.
“The park is being closed at the request of the United States Secret Service in order to provide security for the G-8 Summit,” the website states.
Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont adjoins Catoctin Mountain Park, which also will be closed to the public.
The announcement from the White House last month that the international summit, originally scheduled for President Barack Obama’s hometown of Chicago, was moved to Camp David in Thurmont, came as surprise to the town.
Thurmont now is preparing to play host to international leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom.
Although Camp David has never hosted a G-8 economic summit, former presidents have brought many foreign leaders to the retreat.
For example, President Jimmy Carter brokered the Camp David Accords in 1978, and, in 2000, President Bill Clinton hosted the Middle East Peace Summit. Although both events deluged the town with international and national media, neither attracted demonstrators that typically show up at G-8 summits in other areas.
Thurmont Commissioner Ron Terpko told his commissioner colleagues at a March 27 meeting on the summit, that they should be prepared for demonstrators.
“I hope this goes well,” he said. “But I also think we need to be a little realistic. These aren’t kumbaya. ... I think and hope it is going to be an economic boom we are all hoping for. ... Maybe this will be great, but I’m not sure yet, because they don’t know what to expect.”
Commissioner Bill Buehrer discounted Terpko’s concerns, saying it will be no different than the Colorfest craft show, which attracts about 10,000 people to the town during the second weekend in October.
Terkpo countered the people that come to Colorfest are there for a good time.
“Those people don’t come to protest,” he said. “I’m saying we need to prepare for both. That’s all I’m saying.”
Burns said the federal government has yet to ask the town for help in preparing for the summit.
“This is their event,” he said. “They’re going to fly them [summit leaders] in. They will have two or more days max, and fly them out. Everybody will be up at Camp David, not in Thurmont.”
Burns has ordered the making of a banner to fly over the entrance to Thurmont welcoming summit leaders. The town also plans to fly small flags representing each of the seven countries, alongside a larger American flag.
Burns said he also wants the town’s two parks to be spruced up for the weekend.
“If we have to spend money, I don’t care,” he said.
The council has yet to determine how much money will be put aside to pay for the banner, flags and parks improvements.