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DNC Dispatch: Occupy Charlotte Has Encampment

It is nicknamed “Banktown.” The city is considered to be the No.2 banking capital of America. The city is Charlotte, North Carolina, and it is where the 2012 Democratic National Convention is being held.

The setting is appropriate when you consider how much of a return banks and financial institutions have gotten from President Barack Obama’s administration for donating to the campaign of hope and change in 2008. In retrospect, a banker might ask if that message was for executives and senior businessmen, who were afraid they would be investigated and prosecuted for contributing to the collapse of the economy. Which is why it is not surprising that there is likely to be a sizable number of Occupy protesters here during the convention to protest Obama and the Democratic Party.

I walked through downtown this morning to Marshall Park where Occupy Charlotte—and presumably other Occupy groups—should be during the next days. Though the camp is within the event security zone for the DNC, occupiers in Charlotte apparently negotiated some kind of an understanding or agreement with police in the city. They were allowed to stay overnight on Friday and hope to be there through the duration of the convention.

Marshall Park where Occupy Charlotte has setup camp

Occupy Charlotte encampment

The park has a pleasant quality to it, with a walkway winding through. There are a couple bridges, a pond and a fountain nearby. It is nearby a Martin Luther King Jr. statue.

There were twenty to thirty people around at 10:30 am in the morning. I had sip n’ go water bottles from Firedoglake’s Occupy Supply campaign to hand out. I talked to a few occupiers about Firedoglake’s advocacy in support of Occupy and how the organization had made it possible for people to donate to groups so the protesting and occupying would continue.

Each person was appreciative. I had just over twenty water bottles and left them at the site.

Occupy Charlotte welcome tent

An occupier tells me buses of people are coming. He expects five hundred people.

I ask about police and how everything was overnight. There was a patrol car monitoring, but other than that, no major presence of police yet. (I’d expect this to change. The camp is likely to be swarming with the hundreds if not thousands of police here in the city for the convention. It is where the “potential threats”—anarchists or activists—will be. (Anarchist or activist is an interchangeable term to a number of police officers.)

On the way over to Marshall Park, I walk by the stage Fox News is setting up for the convention. Immediately, I notice the stage could not have been built in a better location because it is right outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Fox News stage at DNC

...Outside NASCAR Hall of Fame

I am able to walk to the Time Warner Cable Center where the convention is to be held. The security presence is not yet heavy (of course, because the convention does not begin until Monday). Press trailers are on a block across the street from the arena.

The arena is adorned with Obama 2012 campaign banners.

Obama 2012

The words “Be Heard” should appear on the side of the convention center with a disclaimer. The people who will be heard are the ones who donate to the Democratic Party and accede to the party line by checking their expectations at the door. They won’t be worried about what the Obama administration did not do or how vacuous sounding the party’s platform or agenda might be going forward. They will be putting more emphasis on the Republican Party and their presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who means to give American capitalism a shot of steroids and go after what’s left of the public sector if elected. Meanwhile, those here with a message for President Obama and the Democrats will be trying to be heard a distance away from the center but just close enough that a police chief could say they are within sight and sound of the convention center.

Though politicians of America and party operatives in attendance don’t know it, this is and should be the message of the convention. It is an at first glance meaningless sign that can be found on gates put up around buildings like the Wells Fargo buildings near the DNC.

Our republic, particularly its political process, is now a chain of private events with restricted access. And it has a history of people fighting against restrictions for access to the club that is only allowed into these private events.

*

A security regime for during the convention is making some headlines. It went into effect Saturday. It is now possible for the police to arrest or detain a person for having “water bottles, hair spray, socks or magic markers” under sweeping security rules enacted ahead of the Democratic National Convention.

An infographic from Free Press shows more on what not to bring (and also what was not allowed during the 2012 RNC convention in Tampa).

 

via Free Press

The restrictions are an example of another power police can use when targeting any protester or journalist they do not want coming closer or nearer to the convention. If they see you are up to no good, by engaging in dissent or practicing investigative journalism, an officer engaged in security can ask to see your bag and cite you for having one of these items.

There’s even, according to a local news network, a section in this regime that bans “a container or object of sufficient weight to be used as a projectile” could be interpreted to include almost anything, from an apple to an iPhone. And, like the anti-protest ordinances passed in Chicago ahead of the NATO summit, these rules stay on the books after Obama 2012 fest has come and gone.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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