THURMONT — On Thursday afternoon, a day before this town is set to be at the center of the world stage, the streets were quiet.
Aside from the occasional television news crew, state troopers’ and sheriff’s deputies’ vehicles passing through and security guards standing watch in front of several banks, Thurmont appeared to be business as usual.
Business owners and residents hope it stays that way.
“I’m not worried,” said John Brown, owner of Brown’s Jewelry and Gifts.
Brown said he is confident local law enforcement will keep the peace when an expected wave of protesters hits town.
“They’ll take care of things,” he said.
Thurmont police will respect the rights of protesters to assemble peacefully, Chief Greg Eyler said.
“We’re not going to harass anyone or violate anyone’s First Amendment rights,” Eyler said. “We’re just going to do our jobs and maintain the peace.”
Eyler had seen only one protester as of 1 p.m., a man holding a sign that read “World Peace.”
“It’s more camera crews right now,” he said.
Local police have plenty of help; Maryland officials for the first time have activated the State Law Enforcement Coordinating Council, according to a Maryland State Police news release. The council was established Feb. 29 through an executive order by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The order grants officers of member agencies — including state police, Maryland Transportation Authority Police, Department of Natural Resources Police and police departments associated with the University of Maryland and Morgan State University — police powers outside their jurisdictions when they are acting under the council’s authority.
Jay Angell, owner of the Twice as Nice secondhand store on Main Street, plans to close his back entrance to control the flow of traffic, but said he is taking no special measures to protect his business.
Angell hopes residents allow protesters to voice their views without interference as law enforcement officials have requested, he said.
“I think as long as people stay home and mind their own business and just let things flow the way they should, there shouldn’t be any problems at all,” Angell said. “For the most part, I don’t foresee any major problems, crime sprees or stuff getting damaged.”
Wired for the worst
Some downtown Frederick businesses are preparing for the influx of protesters. At least one flower shop is ready for the worst.
En Masse on North Market Street has installed chicken wire behind all the shop windows in case vandals break the glass, owner Sharon Mesa said.
“How do you react without going crazy?” Mesa asked.
Mesa wanted to be ready for the worst-case scenario, but she did not want to board up the windows, she said.
“I don’t want anybody to feel really unwelcome,” Mesa said.
The chicken wire is more discreet, she said, and could end up being used for her floral displays.
Corbin Flynn, a sales associate at Pit Crew, said the shop owners have been in touch with their insurance company and considered putting plywood behind the front windows.
But Flynn — who said he has encountered varying levels of concern in the business community — is not overly worried. He hopes demonstrators remain peaceful and practice what they preach.
“Most of the protesters are against big corporations and not against small businesses,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll realize that downtown is all family-owned businesses and not big-money corporations.”
Ned Bond, owner of Creative Stitchins’ on North Market Street, has stayed in the loop with city police and the Downtown Frederick Partnership for information and plans to keep a close eye on the shop, he said.
“I like to stand outside a lot,” Bond said, “so I’ll be keeping a general eye on the temperature of things.”
Bond has some plywood available for the windows, if needed, he said.
Pat Latkovski, owner of the women’s clothing boutique Alicia L, said she is not at all concerned.
“I’m sure that they’ll be well-controlled,” Latkovski said of the protesters. “It will be business as usual, and I plan on a big weekend because of Hood (College) graduation.”
COWs in paradise
By late afternoon Thursday, police appeared to outnumber both news media and protesters. Cruisers parked along Md. 77 and rolled slowly through Thurmont as officials prepared to close the roads into Catoctin Mountain Park.
“They’re everywhere. It’s ridiculous,” said Kristie Frushour, a manager at the Super 8 motel in town, who saw the patrols as she drove in for her 3 to 11 p.m. shift. “I guess they got to do what they got to do.”
Marc Petitpierre rode a Segway through town, holding a sign that read “This Space Occupied” on one side and “Whose G-8? OUR G-8″ on the other. Petitpierre came from Martinsburg, W.Va., to meet up with protesters from Occupy Frederick and Baltimore, he said, but he was on his own Thursday waving at passing vehicles. The federal budget was on his agenda, he said.
“We can’t cut the budget on the back of everybody else,” Petitpierre said. “Rich people need to do their share, too.”
AT&T plans to do its part to accommodate heavy mobile communications traffic in the Thurmont area during the summit.
“AT&T will deploy three temporary network enhancements, called ‘cell on wheels’ (COWs), which will provide customers with additional robust, safe, and secure mobile Internet capacity,” the company’s Margarita Noriega wrote in an email.
The mobile devices will help keep people connected on voice, text, social media and email, she said.
The news media began to arrive Thursday. Vicky Grinder, general manager at the Cozy restaurant and inn, had already done about six interviews with news media by midafternoon, she said. As she spoke, reporters from China Business News, in town from New York, stood nearby waiting to tape a segment. The parking lot was mostly empty, but a large white satellite truck sat parked out front.
Access into and out of Catoctin Mountain Park was already restricted Thursday afternoon. Some parking lots along Md. 77 were blocked with jersey barriers and police prevented cars from entering Park Central Road, which leads to Camp David.
An officer with a gun blocked access to the other side of the park outside Camp Road Meadow, where press will set up, along Manahan Road. A convoy of blue and green Secret Service vans was allowed to drive through.
Nico Maounis, a special news events manager for Associated Press Television in New York City, was busy setting up equipment for international media expected at Camp Road Meadow. Maounis hoped to take in a little bit of Thurmont before leaving Sunday, he said.
“Coming from New York, this is paradise.”
Staff writers Courtney Mabeus, Patti S. Borda and Peter McCarthy contributed to this report.