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Scant economic boost from protest for Thurmont

THURMONT — Rebecca Richey doesn’t understand why some of this town’s 6,000 residents were dreading the weekend G-8 summit at nearby Camp David.

This sign outside the Thurmont Kountry Kitchen restaurant beckons diners to partake of the day’s specials, but the empty street is typical of the scene Friday in Thurmont.

“There’s a lot of people who are not very welcoming,” Richey said. “They don’t want to disrupt our small town. They don’t see the economic part of it.”

Richey, a waitress at Thurmont Kountry Kitchen, where a sign outside welcomed visitors to try an 8-ounce “monster burger,” said she wished the restaurant could stay open longer each day so it could lure as many out-of-towners as possible while global leaders discussed matters of global economic importance at the presidential retreat.

Richey said Friday that “mostly media” members were getting a bite at the diner, but she hoped protestors would stop in throughout the weekend. What exactly they were protesting didn’t matter, she said.

“We respect you for your views, you respect us for ours,” Richey said, “And we’ll feed you some food.”

Members of Occupy Baltimore and other protestors — most calling for President Barack Obama’s resignation due to the slow-to-recover economy and the United States’ actions in Libya — were here as officials from eight of the world’s leading economic powers began to arrive at Naval Support Facility Thurmont, the military’s designation for Camp David.

But as of Friday the crowds were minimal. Only about a dozen protestors stood in the town’s square around midday, with the number dwindling to less than a handful late in the afternoon. Town officials were not convinced the crowd would grow significantly over the weekend.

“So far, there’s not much of an impact,” said John Kinnaird, a town commissioner.

More than 100 police officers were also in town, Kinnaird said, and about 20 law enforcement vehicles continuously patrolled Thurmont’s narrow streets.

As long as protestors who do show up stay peaceful, Mayor Martin A. Burns hopes they dine in town and enjoy their stay.

“The protestors have to eat, the press has to eat,” Burns said. “That’s what always happens. It’s good for the economy.”

Burns, a former Marine who served at Camp David during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said his experience told him there would be few problems as leaders from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and Great Britain met through the weekend.

“I’ve never thought it was really going to be the worst of the worst,” Burns said.

Kinnaird echoed that sentiment. He hoped that protestors and others would come to town so long as they were “peaceable number one, and they spend money, number two.”

Judi Smith, owner of Hillside Turkey Farms on Elm Street, said she didn’t think anyone was coming to Thurmont looking for trouble. She said any business in town ought to be happy for the extra traffic — and hopefully the extra spending.

“Extra sales would be great for anybody,” Smith said.