THURMONT, Md. — With world leaders on their way to Camp David for a Group of Eight summit, protesters trickled into nearby Thurmont to speak their minds.
The movement started slowly Friday morning, with just two representatives of the Larouche Political Action Committee standing in the town square, advocating that President Barack Obama be removed from office.
By noon, the ranks were growing, as members of Occupy movements had gathered in the Weis Markets parking lot to make signs and plan the rest of their day.
Through it all, local, state and federal police were a constant presence through their patrols, working closely and cordially with Occupy groups, but watching out for more antagonistic protesters who have created havoc at past G-8 summits.
Law-enforcement’s mission is to protect the property and safety of Thurmont and its residents, while also protecting the First Amendment rights of the protesters, “as long as they do it legally and lawfully,” said Cpl. Jason L. West, the public information officer for the Frederick County G-8 Information Center.
Since March, when the White House announced the G-8 Summit would move from Chicago to Camp David, near Thurmont, no one has been sure what to expect.
Past meetings of the G-8 — the eight leading industrialized nations, including the United States — have been met with confrontational protests, resulting in arrests.
That was less certain for Thurmont because many G-8 protesters were expected to stay in Chicago for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit to be held Sunday and Monday.
Thurmont welcomed the world by hanging flags from each G-8 nation in the town’s square.
Fighting off gnats, Diana Stull and her father, Jim Stull, placed about 30 small American flags and poles along the entrance ramp to U.S. 15.
“We just decided to do this to dress up the community a bit,” said Diana Stull, whose property is next to the ramp.
She said her family used to watch from the porch as world leaders’ vehicles drove by. The tipoff was when a police car would stop traffic on Md. 77 to let the motorcade proceed, she said.
For a while Friday morning, Ben Deniston and Asuka Saito of the Larouche PAC were the only protesters in the square.
Deniston said the PAC believes Obama should be impeached or otherwise forced out of office for “constitutional violations,” including warfare in Libya without Congress’ consent and targeting U.S. citizens to be killed by drone strikes, even if they are terrorists.
At about 10:45 a.m., several Occupy protesters from Connecticut approached the square and were met by a cluster of journalists eager for a protest angle to report on.
One man with the group questioned reporters first, saying he won’t do interviews with mainstream media who have ignored the Occupy movement.
Martin Scire of Frederick, Md., held a sign reading: “How can we allow the decisions of 8 capitalist leaders control the fate of 7,000,000,000 people???”
He also held an American flag with 30 corporate logos in place of the 50 stars.
He said he’d like to see people band together in their communities and apply pressure on their leaders from the ground up.
“Democracy — it isn’t a spectator sport,” he said.
A woman from Thurmont took several pictures of protest activity and media interviews, which she planned to share with relatives living elsewhere.
She hesitated to give her name, saying she read a protest blog on which someone pledged to go to Thurmont “to teach the rednecks a lesson.”
But a reporter with the German network ARD persuaded the woman to be interviewed on camera, telling her: “Don’t worry. It’s all going to Germany. No one in America’s going to see this.”
Town not reimbursed
Largely unrecognized by reporters and protesters, Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns observed activity in the square and also took a few pictures.
He said authorities have worked closely with Occupy groups to make sure they can protest, as long as they don’t break any laws.
Burns said the town expects to spend about $20,000 connected to the G-8 Summit and endorses U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s push for federal money to help.
Noting that Chicago is getting millions of dollars to handle the NATO Summit but Frederick County hasn’t been promised any money, Burns said: “We just don’t think that’s remotely fair.”
After protesters from Occupy movements in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., arrived, Kevin Wiley of Silver Spring, Md., and Dan Newell of Washington, D.C., worked on a sign that read “End War Now!”
“Take the power back from corporations and put it back into the hands of people it belongs to,” Wiley said while he painted.
Newell spoke in favor of green energy and ending the nation’s dependence on oil.
Beth Emmerling of Occupy Baltimore said Occupy protesters have a nonviolent approach as they spread their messages, in line with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
“We’re here as the voice of humanity,” she said.