Local agencies going to G-8

By Ed Brock

Right now Clayton County police Officer Francisco Romero and 23 of his fellow officers are taking part in history.

"I'm excited, I'm motivated," Romero said as he prepared to leave for the G8 Summit on Sea Island that begins today.

Police and firefighters from around the state are being called in to help with the massive task of providing security for the leaders of the world's eight most powerful nations.

Beginning in 1975 at Rambouillet, France these leaders, then including the heads of the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Japan and Italy, have met to discuss a variety of economic and political issues facing each country. Later Canada joined the group and then in 1994 what was then the G7 began meeting with Russia as well.

By 1998 Russia became a full member and the G8 was born.

"I think it's a proud moment for Clayton County to have the honor and responsibility of command for the summit," Clayton County Police Chief Darrell Partain said.

Partain said that being selected from all the departments in the state showed the degree of training the county's officers had.

That training will also help Romero's wife to rest a little easier while he's away.

"She's nervous about it like any wife," Romero said. "We don't anticipate anything our training hasn't prepared us for."

Standing by Romero, Officer Rodney Lee said his wife is also nervous.

"We've never been apart this long before. It's going to be a test on us," Lee said. "But she knows I've got good men looking out for me and we're well trained."

Capt. Tom Israel said the mission is a great way to represent the county, the department and the chief.

"Hopefully when we get back we will have had a good experience," Israel said. "This is not something many officers can say they've done."

Other municipal police departments in Clayton and Henry county are also sending personnel to the summit, but security precautions make it hard for them to discuss the details of what they're doing. Firefighters from both counties and around the metro area will also participate, but Atlanta Fire Department Capt. Bill May, spokesman for the Georgia Mutual Aid Group under which the operation is organized, said he couldn't release many details about that participation as well.

"We're very pleased to be a part of this," May said. "Hopefully everything will go smoothly."

The purpose of the summit is to address economic issues, and for the state of Georgia it could have many indirect benefits. Gov. Sonny Perdue is very interested in the topics under discussion at the summit, said the governor's Press Secretary Loretta Lepore.

"But also we can use this opportunity to showcase Georgia as not only a place to locate and grow new businesses but also for people to recreate," Lepore said.

State officials will stress the central location of the state and its transportation infrastructure, Lepore said, particularly Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Clayton County.

"The fact of where we are logistically located and where Hartsfield-Jackson is located is good for business," Lepore said.

On the opposite side of the political fence, Riverdale High School graduate Carol Bass, now living in Atlanta, is working as the globalization education coordinator for the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition. She's in Brunswick this week helping to organize protests aimed at the G8 leaders.

They are concerned with issues from debt forgiveness for developing nations to the war in Iraq. Getting permits for the protests has been extremely difficult, Bass said.

"We do have a venue. After eight months we got one two days before the event," Bass said. "But we have to do something. What would it be like if we did nothing?"

Along with the world issues themselves, Bass has also been concerned with the way the protestors have been treated in general. Perdue's declaration of a state of emergency could allow the National Guard to be called in, and she is concerned about the possibility of police brutality.

Their demonstration will be held at the Coastal Georgia Community College near Brunswick.

Specific issues slated to be addressed at the summit include oil prices and the situation in the Middle East. President George Bush has invited leaders from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan and Yemen to attend along with the Turkish prime minister to discuss how the G8 countries can support political, economic and social freedom in the Greater Middle East, according to a statement from the G8 Communications Office.

Leaders of several African nations have also been invited to discuss issues including famine and food security, peacekeeping, development and HIV/AIDS.