Authorities Prepare for G-8 Security - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

08/01/03

Authorities Prepare for G-8 Security

Protesters rioting at last year's G-8. Protesters rioting at last year's G-8.

The G-8 summit is less than a year away and local law officers are preparing for the chaos usually that comes with it. Last June, Evian, France, was the site for the summit, and the authorities blockaded the site from protestors. But that didn't keep them from rioting in the streets of Geneva, Switzerland, about 30 miles away. Police battled the thousands of protestors with tear gas, water hoses and rubber bullets.

Those protesters couldn't get to the site of the summit. Evian and Sea Island have that in common. One of the reasons President Bush chose Sea Island to host the summit is the fact that it has limited access and protestors won't be able to stage any demonstrations on the island.

But Savannah would be an ideal place for protestors to stage demonstrations. That's why all law enforcement agencies are making security plans now. Today was the first time they spoke about their plans. WTOC was at the meeting, where they were really trying to focus on all agencies working together to make sure the event stays positive. They say the biggest problems they will encounter are the crowds and possible protesters.

Members of agencies from the federal down to the local level turned out for the meeting with preliminary ideas. It will be a big challenge, because as of right now, they still have no idea of just how many people will come to the area.

"It's very early to tell but we know the numbers will be huge," said Chief Dan Flynn of Savannah PD.

"We have to make sure that everything that we own and everything we say grace over here is on all cylinders so we can respond locally," said Phillip Webber, director of the Chatham Emergency Management Agency.

The Coastal Empire has never prepared for an event like this before.

"I think the closest thing to this is St. Patrick's Day, but those are more revelers, not protesters," noted Webber.

One of the main concerns for all law enforcement agencies is possible protesters, something the Coastal Empire hasn't seen since the '60s. The last G-8 conference to be held in the US was in Denver, and there were no protest problems, but either way law enforcement is preparing. "We will absolutely be prepared for it," promised Flynn.

"One of the things we have going for us is our spirit of cooperation for natural disasters and man-made disasters since September 11," added Webber.

The agencies say they will need federal funding for this to run smoothly. Chief Flynn says the cost of security for this one event is much more than their entire annual budget. The groups will be meeting at least once a month, and we'll keep you posted on their progress.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

 

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