Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Charlotte, North Carolina, is Already Getting Nervous About Next Year's Democratic Convention

The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, probably thought it would be getting a great boost when it was named to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Such things bring a lot of business to town, and oh, this time it will feature the added prestige of a visit by the incumbent president. Heady stuff indeed. The fact that Charlotte is also the corporate hometown of Bank of America probably didn't even figure in when the city was considered for the convention. Well, as this story from the Huffington Post points out, perhaps it should have:
When the Democratic National Committee picked Charlotte to host its September 2012 convention, city leaders saw it as a boost to the local service economy. Hotels would be filled, restaurants would be booked, and party spaces would be rented. Up until a few months ago, officials only had to worry about the would-be traffic congestion on Trade Street as lobbyists shuffled to the next cocktail party. But now, they have to be concerned about feistier visitors known as Occupy Wall Street.
Damn straight city officials ought to be worried about being Occupied. So what do they plan to do about it?
If Charlotte officials fear having another Chicago '68 on their hands, they're hoping to take one essential weapon out of the hands of activists: their tents. On Oct. 27, the Charlotte city manager released a draft ordinance that makes camping on public property a "public nuisance" and would prohibit "noxious substances," padlocks and other camping equipment that city officials fear could impede traffic and create public safety issues.

The Charlotte City Council has not yet voted on the ordinance, and some argue its language is vague and may violate First Amendment rights. "If the ordinance is passed, it is possible that its constitutionality will be challenged," wrote Isaac Sturgill, director of the Charlotte School of Law chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, in an editorial that will run in the Charlotte alternative weekly Creative Loafing on Dec. 13. "There is also the potential for increased confrontation between protesters and police."
How about that...if there isn't already a law on the books so we can evict the Occupiers, we'll just go ahead and pass one. And we'll do it right out in the open where everyone can see us, because the voters of our fair city no doubt have their collective heads so far up their asses that they would never punish us at the ballot box for it.

Here is what's specifically at stake with the proposed new law:
Occupy Charlotte formed on Oct. 1 with a march on Bank of America's headquarters, though the encampment at the Old City Hall on Trade Street downtown didn't begin until Oct. 8. Two months in, the occupation has established a sprawling campus that contained roughly 50 tents at its height. Despite its location directly across the street from Charlotte police headquarters, relations between cops and protesters have been respectful. Police have arrested twelve activists -- the majority stemming from a Rainforest Action Network protest on Nov. 15 after demonstrators hung an anti-coal banner from Bank of America's flagpoles and blocked an entrance.

The protests may be a dress rehearsal for Occupy Charlotte leading up to the Democratic National Convention. An estimated 50,000 people will visit the city during the DNC, transforming the moderately-sized banking hub into the center of the universe -- or at least the nexus of the 24-hour cable news cycle -- for the week.

This is not lost on Occupy Charlotte and other Occupy groups in the state. Luis Rodriguez, 33, an organizer with Occupy Charlotte, said he's talked to several members of occupations in Asheville and Raleigh, as well as a group 90 miles away in Columbia, S.C. "Everybody I talked to said the DNC is ground zero for everything," he explained to The Huffington Post. "Everybody wants to be involved. We're estimating several thousands of people coming especially from the Occupy community."

What the Occupy groups are actually coming for has yet to be determined. Rodriguez says they have not begun planning for specific actions. There is talk of hosting an alternative convention. "It's just an idea floating around," he said, adding "we're going to be protesting the DNC itself" and if necessary hitting the lobbyists' parties.

Rodriguez has more urgent concerns, however. "What we're trying to do is keep hold of the lawn so that we'll still be around for the DNC," he said.
An "alternative convention" would just be stupid and counterproductive. The Occupiers need to yell as loud and long as they can during the convention and make it clear that Obama is a primary target of their anger. That would dispel any notion that the movement is just a Democratic front. Forget whether it hurts President Hopey-Changey's reelection chances. In a contest between him and either the Newtster or Willard Romney, it's not like the outcome is going to matter much either way for anyone not in the 1%.

At least one Occupier has a sense of just what a spectacle the convention could become:
Between the state's anti-union stance and playing home to Bank of America's headquarters, Ramsey expects the DNC here will be "a powder keg." The city, he said, "has got a big target on it."
My fervent hope is that the Occupiers manage to make the convention a very unpleasant experience for Obama and the Democrats. Even better if it is so bad and embarrassing to the local officials that it makes every other city out there think twice about holding one of these farcical quadrennial exercises in political masturbation in the future.

Unlikely, I know. But as I've said before it's my blog, and a man can dream, can't he?

Bonus: How fitting that Obama is from Chicago


  1. Kunstler has said it before, but next year's conventions have the feel of dry tinder. You get the feeling that things could get very far out of hand, very quickly, with just one spark.

    What's worse, the economic news in the real world that spawns Occupiers, Tea Partiers and their ilk (as you regularly show here), shows no signs of improving. There is no sign that the European Sword of Damocles‎ is likely to be sheathed any time soon. If the feeling among the populace is already tinder-like, what will continued months of economic pain produce before people converge on the conventions?

    One shudders at the thought.

  2. @bemerson - 2012 is certainly going to be "interesting," and not because of some old Mayan prophecy about the end of the world.

  3. The powers that be have already prepared. If need be they will just indefinitely detain without trial anyone that protests the DNC. Whether they will or not I do not know, but they have sure made sure to grant themselves that power. They will hope that very few notice, that most people won't even be aware of it and that those who are will just say: "oh OWS, I always hated those dirty hippies that don't want to work for a living anyway" or "that's what they get for trying to give up the election to the Republicans - the Republicans, can you imagine?". But even if people wake up and are very very aware, they now have the full in total legal machinery of a totalitarian state to use against the people. A few people indefinitely detained and is surprising how quiet the people will get.

  4. Why again is DNC having a convention? It's not like anyone is running against Obama in that party...

    It'd be quite funny if they were told, 'changed our minds, go elsewhere' and no other city wanted to host them either.