THURMONT, Maryland - As U.S. President Barack Obama finished meetings with leaders from the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations and African heads of state at the Camp David retreat in Maryland, demonstrations erupted in nearby towns. The protesters involved regulars of the Occupy movement as well as anti-government Ethiopian activists.
Several hundred Ethiopian activists came from across the United States to protest meetings involving Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has been in power since 1991. The United States is a major aid contributor to Ethiopia, whose leader has been accused of restricting freedoms, including those of the media.
Discussions with African leaders have focused on boosting outside agricultural investment, but one protester, Mohamed Abdo, warned against pouring any outside money into Ethiopia.
"They use this money to buy and to supress the people, not for the benefit of the people, so first of all we need to have a free election," he said. "It should be supported by the people so that whatever kind of policy, it should be the people's policy, it should not be a one person policy, that is our message."
Another protester, Tsegaye, said Americans should be concerned their tax dollars are being misspent on projects involving undemocratic countries, regardless of whether they are considered security allies.
"If you don't have a transparent government, if you dont have rule of law, you do not know how those contracts are executed. Are they in the best interest of the Ethiopian people? In the long run, we do not know," Tsegaye said.
Another protest, called the Counter Group of Eight Community Block Party, was held in nearby Frederick, Maryland.
Replicas of drones were on display to criticize current U.S. military actions.
Brian Henry, a regular of so-called Occupy protests in the United States against wealth disparity, said he had little respect for the talks at Camp David.
"I do not know if I care to speculate," noted Henry, "but my opinion is that they talk about how to make the rich of their countries richer."
Police were on the lookout at both events, to make sure there was no violence or public disturbance. Several protesters said they had tried to enter Camp David, but were turned away.