Originally created 11/25/03

G-8 planners take lessons from Miami riots



ATLANTA - As Tom Packard watched television coverage of violent anti-trade demonstrations in Miami last week, the coastal Georgia business owner wondered whether the same scenario would come to his front yard during next year's G-8 Summit.

"If you watched that Miami stuff, with the police in riot gear and everything, that makes me nervous," said Mr. Packard, the owner of The 4th of May Cafe on St. Simons Island. "I'm a little nervous that our police force and the security here can't handle such a thing."

Miami police arrested more than 200 protesters last Thursday during a Free Trade Area of the Americas summit.

The scenes unsettled some residents of coastal Georgia, which in June will be host of the 2004 Group of Eight Summit, the yearly gathering of the world's economic superpowers.

Sea Island, a remote community off the coast from St. Simons Island, will be the official meeting site for President Bush and other international leaders. Meanwhile, about 3,000 journalists are expected to swarm Savannah, which will be the event's media hub.

Both locations are expected to draw protesters seeking to publicize their causes before the cameras and notebooks of the international media.

In 2001, police shot and killed a protester when the summit came to Genoa, Italy. Other protesters turned to rioting, smashing store windows and blocking city streets.

Since then, G-8 organizers have held the summit in out-of-the-way locations, choosing isolated mountain resorts in 2002 and 2003, and Sea Island for 2004.

State Rep. Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, said he believes coastal Georgians will see minimal impact from the G-8.

"I am very confident that between the federal and local law enforcement agencies, they will have any and all demonstrations controlled," he said.

Georgia security officials paid careful attention to the Miami protests, particularly the Savannah Police Department, which sent nine of its top officers to Florida for six days.

"Our purpose is to learn from their lessons," Savannah Police Capt. Gerry Long said. " ... We've never done something this large before."