The Democratic National Convention officially begins tomorrow in Charlotte. But the event began yesterday for some. Police say two of the 800 or so who took to the streets to protest were arrested. Officials had prepared for as many as 10-thousand protestors. As Dave DeWitt reports from Charlotte, what the marchers lacked in numbers, they made up for in passion.
Dave DeWitt: This is not a day when the loudest message necessarily wins out. But that’s not stopping the protestors from trying. It seems like every other person here has a bullhorn, and a cause. And then there are the signs… The one in front of me says “Capitalism Has Outlived Its Usefulness.” Another says “Boycott the Vote.” Down the street a little ways, another sign reads “Save Our Post Office”. A quick glance up Trade Street and you can see dozens more… And just as one bullhorn eases out of earshot, another is right on you. And then there are the t-shirts. Royal Spence is a 26-year old computer programmer from Greensboro. On the front of his t-shirt is a picture of President Obama. Underneath are the words “war criminal.”
Royal Spence: He’s no different from Bush with regards to his foreign policy. And for the most part during the campaign he talked like he was going to do something but then did not and blamed it on Congress when he could have made any effort whatsoever especially when he had a Democratically controlled Congress.
This protest has a name: it’s “officially” the March on Wall Street South. Protestors gathered at a park on the edge of Uptown Charlotte and marched along a pre-arranged route through the city. They made a special effort to stop in front of Bank of America Stadium – where President Obama will accept the Democratic nomination on Thursday – and the Bank of America headquarters uptown.
Along the route, protestors were greeted peacefully by hundreds of police officers lining the streets – at times, it appeared that the police outnumbered the marchers by 2-to-1. The officers came from Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, and many other North Carolina cities, and also from places as far away as Atlanta and Richmond. They patrolled on foot, they rode bikes and segways, and blocked off side streets with patrol cars and fire trucks. It was an impressive – or perhaps intimidating – show of force. Major Jeff Estes is with the Charlotte Police.
Major Jeff Estes: It’s a beautiful day, a little hotter than we’d like, however we have good group of folks who are obeying the law and exercising their free speech.
Major Estes and the officers under his charge weren’t the only ones looking to keep the day free of violence. Law students were scattered around the march, notebooks in hand, in case problems arose and protestors needed to be made aware of their rights. But their services were not needed on this day. And that was mostly because the protestors policed themselves. B.J. Murphy is from Dobson, North Carolina. His t-shirt proudly announces that he’s a socialist, and on the sleeve of that shirt, he’s wearing a purple armband, signifying that he’s part of something called the De-Escalation Team.
B.J. Murphy: It’s just those of us who decided to sign up to take the responsibility of making sure everyone is safe. To make sure everyone is compact together, sticking together.
Murphy is a 26 year-old college graduate, and while he’s here to speak out against poverty and to help protect his fellow protestors, he’s also here for a very personal reason.
Murphy: I’m actually unemployed. I’ve gone through school and everything but there’s just no jobs, especially in Dobson. And especially in North Carolina, we’re one of the top ten states for the most unemployed. It’s really tough on jobs, so I’m just here to at least just give out some collective anger with everyone else.
Today, on these same streets, “collective anger” will be replaced by CarolinaFest 2012, a street fair hosted by the city of Charlotte and the DNCC. James Taylor will perform, and there will be plenty of activities for the kids.