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From the June 10th, 2004 edition of the Cape Cod Times

Boston, N.Y. Police Take Notes on G-8

By KRISTEN WYATT
Associated Press Writer

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) -- Police from New York City and Boston have taken note of the tiny number of protesters who showed up at the G-8 summit here - and they're taking notes.

The police officials are in Georgia monitoring the tight, omnipresent security surrounding the Group of Eight summit to see what they can learn for this summer's national political conventions.

"I liken this to sports - if you're a pro team and you're going to play a big game, you want to look at the game film," said Robert O'Toole, commander of the Boston Police Department's special operations division.

It's not clear how easily those lessons can be adapted to July's Democratic convention in Boston or August's Republican convention in New York.

Sea Island, where the G-8 leaders are meeting, is not exactly The Big Apple or The Hub. It's a remote barrier island, easily sequestered from the mainland.

Still, activists fear that the massive security presence surrounding the summit will be a model for future events.

The fewer than 300 activists protesting against globalization and the war in Iraq were far outnumbered by a security force of 20,000. On Wednesday, a few minor shoving matches took place, but overall, the summit has been peaceful, unlike the violent protests that marred the 2001 summit in Genoa, Italy.

Everywhere protesters went, they were joined by officers and soldiers, often with military helicopters overhead and sometimes with gunboats in the background.

Security personnel - some with military Humvees - were stationed along roads. Caravans of state troopers drove around from morning to night with their lights on and sirens blaring.

"These scare tactics are exactly what we're seeing in Boston right now," said Carolyn Toll Oppenheim, a protester from Holyoke, Mass., who came to take notes for events planned later in Boston.

At a community college in Brunswick, a home base for protesters that is miles from Sea Island, sessions on world debt relief and other topics turned into gripe sessions about police tactics designed to stymie protests.

From the start, protesters complain, they've been told they're not welcome near the summit and could be in danger if they speak up too loudly.

"People didn't come down here for fear they'd be shot with a rubber bullet just for standing on the side of the street," said protest organizer Carol Bass of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition.

Brunswick officials copied a 2003 ordinance from Augusta, Ga., which required permits for any public gatherings of more than five people. That ordinance was passed in fear of wide-scale protests at Augusta National Golf Club at last year's Masters golf tournament because of the club's all-male membership.

Augusta's law was thrown out in April by a federal appeals court in Atlanta, but that was too late for G-8 protesters to challenge similar laws near the summit.

Finding a place to sleep in Georgia was also difficult. Most hotel rooms were gobbled up by police and other officials as soon as the summit was announced. Protesters complained that even campground operators were scared off by word from police that protesters would trash their properties.

"Look, coming to these events takes time and money," said Lisa Fithian, a protester from Austin, Texas. "People want to know before they take off work and travel somewhere, 'Am I going to have a place to stay? Am I going to be safe?'"

The final straw, protesters said, was the May announcement by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue that all coastal counties would be under a state of emergency during the summit, giving police broader powers to arrest people and disperse crowds.

For the protesters, the focus now is regrouping for what they hope can still be a summer of dissent.

"It's on us now to say, 'We won't be intimidated. We're people, and we have a right to say these things,'" said Naomi Archer of the Save Our Civil Liberties Campaign.
 
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