CommunityThe Dissenter

Charlotte: Making It Possible Your Rights Are Suppressed During the DNC (And After)

Pile of barricades for controlling protesters at the DNC

Busloads of police from around the country are entering the city of Charlotte to help maintain the illusion of security and to control dissent during the Democratic National Convention (DNC). They will patrol the area in and around the Time Warner Cable Center, where the convention is to be held, on bicycles, motorcycles and in vans or golf carts. They are sure to be armored. The weather is also expected to be rainy over the next few days giving the protest a fitting climate for the dystopian reality that is created at these conventions.

Officers in the city have an ordinance for “extraordinary events” in place, which will make it possible to exact maximum control over the area. As described in the ordinance passed in January, an “extraordinary event” is a “large-scale special event of national or international significance and/or an event expected to attract a significant number of people to a certain portion of the city.” The convention is also a “national special security event,” which denotes events of “political, economic, social, or religious significance” that may render them particularly attractive targets of terrorism or other criminal activity.” That means the DNC is an extraordinary national special security event, one that poses so much risk to society that totalitarianism must engulf an area for the entire period of the event in order to ensure the community is rendered inactive and politicians, lobbyists, donors, party operatives, etc., can all have their event without any interference.

The hype is always that there will be “terrorism.” The recent Republican National Convention saw authorities worried that waterways would be utilized for nefarious purposes. Bridges were closely guarded. There were likely no threats averted and no real threats that ever existed outside of standard message board chatter on the Internet.

Authorities also hyped the threat of “anarchist extremism.” That never quite manifested itself either. However, this threat more closely resembles the type of “terrorism” the authorities fear because during extraordinary national special security events it takes on a particularly broad definition: those who engage in civil disobedience and resistance outside the confines of whatever structure that is the site of the event. It is also a threat the authorities are willing to manufacture with security resources, particularly informants, so that there is criminal activity to crack down upon to justify the incredible show of force at these events.

The ordinance for Charlotte prevents people from having anything that can be pushed, pulled or transported like a vehicle, cart or float. This outlaws the use of drone replicas on wheels to protest a new growth industry in America’s war economy. Throwing objects is unlawful, unless authorized by an authority. That doesn’t mean smoke bombs and other so-called less-lethal weapons can’t be hurled at protesters. “A bar, chain, staff, cable wire, lumber or plastic pipe capable of inflicting injury to a person if thrown at or struck upon another” is outlawed. This can be used to significantly limit how protesters may carry signs because any pipes or poles can preposterously be seen by police officers as implements of mass destruction.

“A container or object of sufficient weight that may be used as a projectile or that contains objects that may be used as a projectile that could inflict serious injury to a person or damage to property,” is also a rule. Any manner of objects on your person could probably be a projectile at any moment. An officer might claim your phone was a projectile. Then there’s a restriction on “etching materials, spray paint containers, liquid paint or markers containing fluid that is not water soluble.” This is another anti-protest rule.

Finally, there’s the rule that a “backpack, duffle bag, satchel, cooler or other item carried with the intent to conceal weapons or other prohibited items” may not be carried in the “event zone,” a wide area around the convention center, during the DNC. Notice it does not prohibit the carrying of briefcases or purses with the “intent” to conceal weapons nor does it just keep the restriction simple by stating “no bags or containers.”

How does an officer tell that you are carrying your bag with the “intent to conceal” a “weapon” or “prohibited item”? He probably just walks up to you and demands to search your bag and person to determine whether you are someone who is a “threat.” He probably looks at you and decides he doesn’t like how you look. You look too much like a militant protester. Your demeanor doesn’t sit well with him. So he violates you with full support of the law because there is no right to privacy.

The ordinance lays out the way in which a person could reasonably prove they did not deserve to be targeted later. “If the person was engaged in, or on the way to or from, an activity in which he or she legitimately used the device or object,” that person might be fine. If the object was possessed for “legitimate use” or the person “did not use or attempt to use the object as a weapon or to injure another person or damage property,” that person might not be in violation after all. Of course, this is all after the fact and what is to stop the police from rounding you up and taking you to jail? The law is not going to be sorted out in the streets during an extraordinary national special splendid magnificently incredible security event. There are walking potential threats all over that deserve the attention of Charlotte’s finest burliest officers and other officers here to reenact scenes from Philip K. Dick novels.

Occupiers can be in a park in the city. They are welcome to set up tents and congregate there because they, at least, are not downtown in the city nearby bank buildings or other sites that are hosting convention meetings or parties. The security can put two unmarked vans of police in the lot to keep watch, and if the group takes off to exercise their rights, they can deploy, head them off and run them into some area of the city that has been barricaded to limit people’s mobility.

On top of all that, the ordinance does not sunset like the ordinance in Tampa does. It will remain a law that can be used to deter groups of people from engaging in free speech outside shareholder meetings held by corporations like Duke Energy or Bank of America, as it has been used prior to this convention. It will continue to be used on citizens in the aftermath just like the ordinance in Chicago that was passed for the NATO meeting this past May.

A local newspaper’s editorial inadvertently unveils why it is so important for police to maintain control and prevent the business and political elites at their quadrennial confab this week:

…[A]n entire industry has sprung up around managing people’s, and companies’ and cities’ reputations. Charlotte’s top business recruiters will tell you that the city’s reputation is crucial to attracting companies and the jobs they bring. Perception matters. The status we earn with a successful week this week might be ephemeral, but if even a handful of the right people are impressed, it could pay off for our economy down the road…

In a country that continues to undergo further transformation into a corporate state, this is the conventional wisdom that can be expected to prevail. It is the ideology of the managerial class that sees politics as part of business as usual and selecting the right executives for the job instead of something that individuals aspire to participate in to speak up for the marginalized and unheard and provide a public service.

Security is there for the purpose of perception management, one of the more cynical industries in American commerce. There are no “terrorists” or well-organized group of “anarchists” intent on bringing destruction to the doorstep of the DNC in Charlotte. There are no people seeking to make Charlotte pay for choosing to host the convention. There is only ramped up security for the sake of the illusion of safety and control, to convince citizens in and around the city that they need not worry about hyped threats. They need not worry about several thousands of people not clearing away so traffic can flow and business can go on as usual because capitalism’s finest will be on the streets ready to preemptively target anything and anyone that security officials in state-of-the-art command centers convince themselves could be at some point or another a “threat.”

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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."