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Months ahead of time, police in riot gear begin preparations for G-8 Summit

Savannah Morning News
March  08, 2004

Mar. 8 - Pay no attention to those officers in riot gear converging on your neighborhood.

They're just training for the G-8.

In recent weeks, Savannah-Chatham police have been performing what may look like unusual exercises to prepare for their role during the Group of Eight Summit, now three months away.

Sea Island, about 90 miles south of Savannah off the coast of Brunswick, will host the eight leaders of the world's most powerful industrialized nations for three days of political discussions, starting June 8.

But Savannah will house just about everyone else including delegation members, media professionals and potential protesters.

On Tuesday, officers were in the Forsyth Park area practicing a crowd-control technique called marshaling. It's a way of quickly dispersing crowds and clearing streets.

While typically employed during parades, the tactic is useful to respond to any threat to the public, according to police spokesman Bucky Burnsed. "Say an incident took place," Burnsed said. "In the interest of safety, you don't want all your officers rushing there at one time. So you start from a rallying point, clear a path and bring in the number of cars you need." Not all of the drills have gone on in public places. City land off Dean Forest Road, used for stabling the mounted unit's horses, doubles as training grounds. In addition to practicing in areas around the city, Savannah police also are being trained, along with other agencies, at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth. There, they are learning about devices protesters might use, and how to respond while minimizing injuries. Burnsed said the recent training is in addition to the continuing education police regularly receive. Observers will be watching Savannah police closely, as they did during last year's Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting in Miami. Authorities there were criticized for taking a heavy-handed approach that allegedly impinged on the rights of some individuals. Mandatory legal training for Savannah police and its partner agencies is meant to prevent that. So far, only one group has applied for a location to demonstrate, according to Chris Morrill\uFEFF assistant city manager. Free Savannah, which has attracted a broad range of protester interest, has asked to use Forsyth Park. "Savannah-Chatham has a proud, rich history of being a gracious host, as well as respecting diverse political views," Police Chief Dan Flynn said last week in an update on his force's preparations. "That won't change for the G-8 Summit. But make no mistake about it, we are taking a no-nonsense approach, and we will not tolerate anyone intent on causing illegal disruptions or damage to public or private property." The chief warned that unruly groups or individuals will be met by "heavily equipped, well-trained, highly motivated (and) tightly disciplined law enforcement officers."

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