Local Police Train for G-8 - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/02/03

Local Police Train for G-8

Protesters at the FTAA talks in Miami. Protesters at the FTAA talks in Miami.

The G-8 summit is just six months away, and it's expected to draw thousands of protesters from around the world to Sea Island, Georgia, and the surrounding area. The picture could be very similar to what happened in Miami last month as demonstrators converged on the city during the Free Trade Area of the Americas talks.

Local police from here were there to learn what they could. Every event and demonstration is different, but police believe it can give them a better idea of what to expect, and how to prepare for what they could be dealing with at the G-8 summit in June. Seven Savannah-Chatham police officers were right in the thick of it at the FTAA talks.

"I thought overall they had a very good plan," said Capt. Gerry Long. "I thought it was executed very well. They were prepared for some of the protests that occurred. I don't think you can prepare for everything."

But police are determined to try, by heading to protests in Miami and viewing tapes of riots from other cities. "We learned a lot of the challenges: logistic challenges like feeding the number of staff who are going to be here, making sure they're hydrated, providing medical services for both them and the people who may come to protest," said Capt. Long.

One of the biggest obstacles could be protecting the Coastal Empire while preserving demonstrators' rights. "You again have to separate persons who have a legitimate purpose and a legitimate protest versus those people whose purpose is to disrupt and wreak havoc," Long said. "There are two different groups and two different tactics used by both."

Viewing tapes and visiting other cities that have hosted the G-8 and similar events are one thing, but police say Savannah poses some unique challenges that other cities may not have. "People living here in the downtown area, we have many historic sites that we have to protect that could be damaged beyond repair," said Maj. Dan Reynolds.

"There's a lot of learning and a lot of coordination we have to do between now and June," added Capt. Long.

Six months to make the plans and secure the resources for what's looking to be a monumental event. Police are working with state and federal officials to get the resources--money, more police officers and vehicles--that they feel they'll need for this event. They're also planning to attend more events like the FTAA talks to learn as much as they can before the G-8 summit.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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