One more step forward, and what happens?
Another? Maybe then a siren, scattering the chipmunks. Maybe then a charging German shepherd, or a rubber bullet to the kneecap, or the sudden appearance of a camouflaged Marine who has been watching all along as a hiker approaches the perimeter of Camp David, the official retreat of the president of the United States — 180 acres of public land that the public cannot lay eyes on, a cloistered campground a couple of miles up the mountain from a sleepy town of 6,000 that over the years has maintained a polite but distant relationship with its very high-profile neighbor.
This weekend, the president is having friends over. Big-deal friends who represent the world’s largest economies, for the annual G-8 Summit. Nearly 11,000 acres of state and national parkland will be on lockdown, and a no-fly zone with a 30-mile radius will hover over western Maryland. The municipality closest to the global center of power this weekend is the town of Thurmont, which will go about its own business while world leaders go about theirs, mere miles from each other as the crow flies but dimensions apart in terms of power and consequence.
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Diner waitresses have a judicial kind of authority,
and if they say Thurmont is just a quiet little town where everyone knows your name, then Thurmont is just a quiet little town where everyone knows your name.
“But that’s what they always say when something bad happens somewhere: “It was just a quiet little town,” jokes Mary Reed, who has been freshening cups of coffee at the Mountain Gate Family Restaurant since Ronald Reagan was riding horses up at Camp David.
Everyone in town is talking about the weekend, when President Obama will host the G-8 at 1,800 feet. In March the president switched the summit’s location from Chicago to Camp David because he wanted a more intimate setting, but activists interpreted this as confirmation that leaders want to avoid angry citizenry.
“Perhaps if you don’t see people and their messages, it’s easier to pretend we’re not there,” says Occupy Baltimore activist Beth Emmerling, who will be camping with 30 protesters in a Thurmont farmer’s hayfield Friday and Saturday. “It feels like the very people that can help make things better are just going further and further into hiding.”
One cannot occupy Camp David, so one must occupy Thurmont. The town has kindly set aside a public park for out-of-town protesters. Painted wooden butterflies — part of a public-art initiative — have been removed from parking meters so there are fewer objects for theoretical rioters to throw. The flags of the G-8 nations are flying at the intersection of Main and Water streets. The Super 8 and the Cozy Country Inn are booked solid by Secret Service agents and the media. Schools are closed Friday. Town officials are prepared for the worst, expecting the best, and will support citizens who want to exercise their constitutional rights by chanting in the general direction of a campground they can’t get within four miles of.