THURMONT, Md. (AP) — Dozens of police officers in riot gear contained more than 200 Ethiopian activists who jammed a small Maryland town’s square Saturday to protest their prime minister’s involvement in a global economic summit at nearby Camp David.
Authorities reported no arrests during the three-hour demonstration that shut down the intersection of two state highways through the center of town. The commotion drew scores of spectators, many using cameras to document their town’s latest role in world affairs.
The flag-waving Ethiopian immigrants, mainly residents of the Baltimore-Washington area, were protesting the rule of Meles Zenawi, who was invited along with the heads of Benin, Ghana and Tanzania to discuss food security with leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations. On Friday, President Barack Obama announced $3 billion in private-sector pledges to help boost agriculture and food production in Africa.
The United States is a major contributor of aid to Ethiopia, whose longtime leader has been accused of restricting freedoms and news media. Some in Ethiopia see him as a dictator.
“Shame on you!” chanted the protesters, many waving their country’s red, green and yellow flag.
Some held a banner reading, “Zenawi: brutal dictator, pathological liar, mass murderer.”
Police restricted demonstrators to Thurmont, a town of 6,200 several miles from the presidential retreat.
Demonstrator Woni Hailesilassi, a 33-year-old cab driver from Falls Church, Va., said he and four companions tried to drive their car to Camp David but were turned away after 25 minutes of police questioning.
“We need for the people to understand who is the president,” he said, referring to Zenawi. “We know him very well. We want to show that to the world.”
Local resident Cheryl Magers watched the demonstration from the front steps of Thurmont Barber & Styling, across the street from barricades.
“This is quite a commotion,” she said. “And it’s going to be a part of history. That’s why we’re here.”
A few doors down, Christina Spain sold $15 t-shirts reading, “I survived G-8 Summit 2012,” from a sidewalk table. She said she and her boyfriend had 84 of the shirts printed overnight to sell as souvenirs.
“This is not going to happen again,” she said.
Police said there were no arrests or other problems with the protesters.
“Everybody got to come and demonstrate peacefully. There were no issues and that’s what we were hoping for,” said Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Jason West, a spokesman for a combined local and state police force.
A handful of demonstrators from Occupy movements in Baltimore, Washington and New Haven, Conn., joined in. Occupy Baltimore member Richard Ochs said many others from the group went to Chicago to join demonstrations against a meeting there of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, starting Sunday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)