SAVANNAH -- Braving the heat of Savannah and the threat of protesters, 15 members of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office watched an uneventful first day of the G-8 Summit Tuesday.
Shortly before noon, Deputy Charles Brantley stood at Exit 166 off I-16 directing traffic through a single lane. More than 100 yards away, Deputy Scott Browning and Richard Swain stood watch at the barricade used to divert traffic. They were met by Sheriff Ashley Paulk, who drove over for the afternoon to check on them.
Brantley told Paulk that the majority of the people were patient with the blockades and law enforcement presence. While he talked, his patrol car sat running nearby. Brantley explained the hood was raised to keep it from overheating. He said the car had to run to keep the blue lights flashing at all times.
Swain said the only chance to see protesters would be at Forsyth Park, near the edge of the historic district. He said a parade held earlier had fewer than 200 people and the crowd had moved to the Park. Paulk left them and headed to the Georgia side of the Herman Talmadge Bridge. Here, Lt. Jim Hightower who is in command of the Lowndes County personnel in Savannah, stands guard with Eric Bramble and Mike Weldon. They are accompanied by National Guard members and an eight-wheel vehicle with a flatbed designed to tow vehicles and act as a barricade for traffic.
Hightower told Paulk that no protesters had attempted to stop the charter buses filled with staffers from the Summit. Moments before Paulk arrived, the buses had returned from their trip from Sea Island. As Hightower talked, snipers sat on the roof of a building that belongs to the Savannah College of Art and Design. Other National Guard members kept watch from the balcony of a school building that had been converted from an old motel.
Lowndes County patrol cars rode back and forth over the bridge constantly to deter anyone from attempting to hang banners on the bridge. Weldon said he and Bramble worked in shifts not only to fight the heat, but also the repetition.
Paulk traveled down to The Pirate's House, a well-known tourist attraction that usually requires a long wait.
Not on Tuesday.
Paulk stopped and asked people outside if the restaurant was open. Inside, a handful of people sat at tables. Carla Mills, accountant for the restaurant, said business had been slack, and Tuesday's commute was the quickest trip to work she had ever made.
"I normally leave for work 30 minutes ahead of time," she said. "This morning I was running five minutes behind, but it only took me seven minutes to get here."
Mills said that people were dodging the area because of the Summit and the preparedness of law enforcement. She estimated they would lose 85 percent of their business for the week.
The next area was Bull Street, which borders the west side of the squares. A few of the historic areas had metal fencing to protect them from a threatened attack Saturday night. A convoy of Georgia State Patrol cars complete with flashing lights eased through the area.
Paulk said the lack of protesters demonstrated their inability to stand the heat -- temperature and law enforcement. At Forsyth Park, he indicated a lone protester in a black tie-dyed shirt and carrying a black tie-dyed flag who listened to a group on the stage. Behind him was a small group of black umbrellas set out in protest against the war, but the most people gathered there were either media or law enforcement.
Paulk completed his tour of the area and returned to the bridge where Weldon was taking his turn directing traffic. Across the street, Old Town Trolley sent cars out for tours with fewer than 10 people while he watched the few cars head across the bridge.
He indicated the large housing project behind him and said they were told the police usually get 80 percent of their calls from there daily. With law enforcement's highly visible presence at the bridge, calls had dropped off tremendously.
While he talked, Specialist George Fields, cranked the large vehicle to allow the air brakes to regain pressure. He said their role was not to hamper the tours, but to maintain the checkpoint at the bridge.
Paulk said his deputies will remain in Savannah until the Summit ends Friday.
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