Final March Of The DNC
Once - and sometimes even twice - a day during the Democratic National Convention, protesters with the Occupy movement marched through Uptown Charlotte, calling on both political parties to rid themselves of corporate money and influence.
As President Obama prepared to accept his party's nomination last night, they marched one final time. . .
They start in Marshall Park as they have each of the last three days. Police on bikes wait around the corner, out-of-sight, then swarm into view as soon as the protesters step into the street.
It feels routine on this final night of the DNC. Police and protesters have grown accustomed to each other.
"We are the 99 percent!" chant the protesters.
There are about 150 protesters and two, maybe three times as many officers. Up Stonewall Street they march, planning to turn right on Tryon and pass through the heart of the city like they did yesterday and the day before.
"Not tonight," says the CMPD major on duty. It's more theater than anything - a reminder of who's in charge. The stone-faced major huddles with Occupy Charlotte's lead negotiator - Michael Zytkow. And presto - Zytkow shares good news with the restless group.
"We will have Tryon!" shouts Zytkow into a megaphone. "Please be patient. The police will be clearing the street soon."
A cheer goes up and chanting resumes. "Whose streets? Our streets!"
They arrive at the intersection of Trade and Tryon. A fire engine and several rows of police block them from continuing toward Time Warner Cable Arena where President Obama is supposed to speak in about two hours.
"Obama, come out! We have some things to talk about!" they chant.
"The corporations have bought out your government!" yells Occupy Charlotte protester Adam Nuber. "Come join us! Remove money out of politics!"
President Obama does not come out to talk, but curious onlookers line the streets, listening. Jason Reece captures it on his cell phone.
Reece came Uptown specifically to watch the protests. He's lived in Charlotte for 15 years.
"I've never seen any thing like this in my life," says Reece. "That's the one reason I wanted to come down here."
It's been a weeklong workshop on free speech and the political process for locals like Reece - and Tsion Gabiu who was born in Ethiopia. She's been in the United States for over 15 years. This is the first political convention she's seen.
"We're pretty impressed how safe and how free it is," says Gabiu, as the protesters continue to chant in the street a few feet away.
Safe and free was CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe's goal. He's out in front tonight - like he has been all week - keeping an eye on the march.
"I think it's gone very well," says Monroe. "I think everyone has done a great deal of communication and organizing with each other. We've clearly understood what each (other's) intent has been throughout the week."
The protests were all peaceful. Of the two-dozen people arrested, most did on purpose, hoping to draw attention to a cause.
The Occupy protesters feel empowered, says Michael Zytkow. They camped in a public park despite the city's ban. They marched through streets the city didn't pre-approve.
The daily DNC marches are the culmination of a year's worth of protests at corporate meetings and the two-and-a-half month occupation of the lawn at old City Hall.
"Really, what we're seeing here is we're trying to normalize protest culture in Charlotte," says Zytkow. "If you're concerned with the direction this country is going in under both Republicans and Democrats, it'd be great to see you out in the streets and I think we've helped normalize that."
The DNC is over, he says, but regular marches through the streets of Charlotte are here to stay.