G8 summit blocks NGOs

This week's G8 Summit in Savannah, Georgia has an unmistakeable corporate flavour, but is coupled with a clear absence of social activists and aide groups.

    This year's summit has been unusually quiet

    The quid pro quo agreement between G8 organisers and Cingular Wireless allows for the renting of mobile phones. In return, Cingular get to promote its products along a sprawling booth with a giant inflatable model of its X-shaped logo.

    But human rights and other groups that usually circulate at G-8 summits have been absent.

    One group that has been a fixture at previous summits, the international aide group Oxfam, said it was told not to come.

    Past accommodation

    At the G-8 summit in Kananaskis, Canada, two years ago, organisers officially allowed such outside groups to have a presence at the media headquarters like the convention centre in Savannah. The group was on hand to praise or pan developments, said Lindsey Cruz, a group spokeswoman.

    Authorities were preparing for
    large scale demonstrations

    Last year, organisers allowed Cruz to attend the G-8 in Evian, France as a journalist for Oxfam's magazine, Exchange. The organisers knew Cruz was also handing out press releases, too, but looked the other way, she said.

    But the American organisers turned her group down, Cruz said. First, they told Oxfam the G-8 would not admit freelance journalists. When she protested, they told her they would bar publications owned by non-governmental groups like Oxfam.

    Bennett said the summit planning committee decided to exclude non-governmental groups because of space limitations and because the summit was designated a "national security special event." That put the Secret Service in charge of admission, and meant access was "based on need," he said.

    Much ado about nothing

    Residents along Georgia's marshy coast spent months worrying about the potential for mayhem at the summit: violent protesters, terrorism, traffic snarls - just about anything.

    But now, people like Linda Mahoney are wondering what all the fuss was about.

    "I don't know what I thought they'd look like... Orange hair, gays and lesbians arm-in-arm ... Your imagination runs away with you. But they look like regular folks"

    Mary Gatch,
    Savannah resident

    "We got to meet a protester. She was really nice, a Christian," said Mahoney, a St Simons Island resident.

    The lack of trouble seemed to transform residents' fears into curiosity.

    The military has some neat trucks and helicopters, they've noticed, and it's fun watching two dozen state troopers line up to ride in big patrol parades, lights ablaze.

    The chairman of the Glynn County Commission, Mark Bedner, said he is still worried ‘anarchists’ might try to start trouble as the summit ends on Thursday.

    "They're off by themselves. What are they doing?" he asked.

    But Mary Gatch said the summit hasn't been nearly as bad as she feared.

    "I don't know what I thought they'd look like," she said of the protesters. "Orange hair, gays and lesbians arm-in-arm ... Your imagination runs away with you. But they look like regular folks."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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