DNC Protesters, Police Coordinate For Peaceful March
Some 800 protesters marched for more than three hours in scorching heat through Uptown Charlotte Sunday chanting for a variety of social and environmental reforms. It was a smaller turnout than organizers had hoped and easily controlled by hundreds of police officers. There were only two arrests.
The entire day was highly-choreographed by protesters and police.
Protesters have worried for months that new city ordinances created specifically for the DNC would lead to mass arrests during Sunday's march. But a surprising turn of events the night before was an early sign that police had other plans.
Abut 50 Occupy Wall Street protesters pulled into Charlotte on a bus from the Republican National Convention in Tampa and set up camp in Marshall Park.
Police watched from a van in the parking lot, but told protesters they were fine to camp, so long as they didn't cause any trouble.
"They said it was fine - they said that they were happy to have us here," says Occupy Wall Street protester Darrell Prince.
He was amazed, since the city banned camping on public property in January and evicted and Occupy Charlotte encampment.
The next day they and hundreds of other protesters from all across the country would get an even warmer welcome from police.
They were literally escorted by police as they moved slowly through Uptown. Columns of officers with their clubs and ties for restraining people marched right along side the protesters to keep them in the street.
Top commanders of CMPD, including Chief Rodney Monroe walked at the front.
Monroe says the escort strategy is something that's worked well in other cities "as far as trying to keep everybody together, keep everyone on the route and make sure that we're able to march them along safely."
A few paces behind Chief Monroe is Pat McCoy - a long-time activist with Action NC in Charlotte.
McCoy's one of several liaisons designated by protest organizers to be in constant communication with police.
"There've been a lot of agreements on the front end, and that's been quite helpful," says McCoy.
March organizers met several times with police to plan the details of yesterday's protest - right down to the stops they made for speeches in front of Bank of America and Duke Energy headquarters.
Such detailed coordination with police isn't typically what you'd expect from a mass protest, admits McCoy. But the heightened security of the DNC convinced march organizers it would be better to get a permit for the protest and work with police.
"(It's) not necessarily the way we always choose to protest, but you know we advertised this as a family-friendly, secure event and we're committed to that," says McCoy.
The biggest threat of the day was 90-degree heat that left protesters sweaty and dehydrated as the marched stretched beyond three hours.
Police made just two arrests. A 23-year-old woman was arrested for wearing a mask and carrying a concealed knife - both prohibited under the city's "extraordinary event" ordinance. The 33-year-old man was also arrested for disorderly conduct and assaulting a government official.
People participating in the march were there for a variety of causes: "Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!" chanted some, urging a moratorium on foreclosures and more regulation of big banks.
Others marched for an end to mountaintop coal removal. A busload of undocumented youth joined the march for immigration reform. Women decked out in hot pink marched for an end to war.
And of course the Occupiers marched for an end to corporate money in politics. They plan to keep camping in Marshall Park throughout the DNC.
The City Manager says he'll defer to CMPD Police Chief Rodney Monroe to enforce the camping ban.
"We're gonna assess it every day," says Monroe of the Marshall Park campers. "Right now it's not a great concern to us. You gotta pick and choose where you're gonna draw the line and that's just not one we're ready to draw the line at right now."
He's got his hands full with closed streets and thousands of people expected Uptown for a public festival Monday kicking of the DNC.