THURMONT, Md. (AP) – About a dozen activists prepared banners for roadside demonstrations Friday in Thurmont, Md., under the eyes of authorities determined to keep them miles away from the Camp David presidential retreat where world leaders were gathering for a global economic summit.
A small demonstration that included a replica of an unmanned drone aircraft in the town square was peaceful Friday. Members of Occupy Baltimore, the lead organizer of the demonstrations, said some activists opted to go to Chicago instead to protest a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance that begins Sunday.
Activists do expect hundreds of sympathizers to arrive from Baltimore and Washington, about an hour away, for more demonstrations Saturday.
The demonstrators, from as far away as Tucson, Ariz., aim to educate people, not disrupt the meeting of leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations, said Beth Emmerling of lead organizer Occupy Baltimore.
“I’m looking forward to the headline, `First G-8, no arrests,'” she said of the Camp David meeting.
She said she expected the world leaders to arrive Friday evening in helicopters, flying high above the signs with slogans such as “No solution for nuclear waste” and “End war now.” But Emmerling was hopeful that President Barack Obama and his guests would see news coverage of the protests.
“I’m sure Obama’s interested in hearing what the people are saying, given it’s an election year,” she said.
Some past G-8 meetings have been accompanied by large and sometimes violent protests. This year’s session had been set for Chicago, followed immediately by a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit. In March, the Obama administration moved the economic meeting to Camp David but denied that it was for security reasons.
Connecticut musician Ray Neal arrived in Thurmont with a half-dozen others from Occupy New Haven. He accused the international leaders of running and hiding from demonstrators.
“I don’t approve of these behind-the-closed-door meetings in a supposed democracy,” said Neal, 52, wearing a “People against police brutality” T-shirt. “I’d like to let it be known that I think these processes should be open and transparent, since they affect us all.”
Demonstrator Gregory Walker, 24, of New Haven, said he had considered going to Chicago to protest the NATO summit but ultimately heeded a friend’s advice that “NATO is like the hand of the world’s leaders.”
“He was right,” Walker said. “Why not come out and meet the minds _ or as close as we can get to the minds _ and do some protesting?”