At Dem Convention, Protesters Hard to Come By
This post has been updated.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Reports last week that the 2012 Democratic National Convention would feature massive protests were greatly exaggerated.
The streets of uptown Charlotte are jammed -- between 35,000 and 40,000 people have descended on the city over the last five days -- but protesters?
Not so many.
On Sunday, before most convention-goers arrived in town, about 1,000 marchers with a variety of issues -- the environment, the foreclosure crisis, LGBT and immigrant rights and more -- rallied near the convention. They were matched nearly one for one by police officers from all over the southeast, but there were only two arrests, and one was for public intoxication.
Since then, there have been no protests even close to that size, although 10 protesters were arrested today, six of them after they locked arms and sat down at an intersection outside of the Duke Energy Center, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The most notable protest thus far happened early Tuesday afternoon, when an Occupy contingent disrupted a major intersection near the convention arena. The protesters numbered maybe 30 in all—it was hard to tell as police immediately locked down several blocks surrounding the area to even the press. But the group managed to annoy thousands. Not only did the event lead to another -- hundreds of police officers on foot and bike and in squad cars, SUVs, vans, buses and trucks blocking thousands of convention-goers from getting where they needed to -- but it also happened to shut down a Planned Parenthood rally, much to the anger and dismay of the pro-choice activists.
With their rally, Planned Parenthood leaders sought to counterbalance the constant presence of a small group of anti-abortion activists wielding 7-foot billboards of aborted fetuses. Since the pro-choice rally would’ve garnered large support from the thousands of DNCers tired of being called murderers as they walk past the bullhorned anti-choicers, the Occupiers quickly became personas non grata with the frustrated crowds.
Wednesday night, near the end of President Bill Clinton’s speech, a rally of about 100 members of Greenpeace and other groups, including the Occupy movement, marched near the convention after protesting at Duke Energy headquarters to demand that the utility sever ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes a pro-business agenda. The protesters were once again outnumbered by hundreds of police officers and barely seen by convention-goers, who were either in the arena or one of the many convention-watching parties nearby.
The diehard anti-choice activists, fewer than a dozen at any one time, have annoyed DNCers who complained that pro-choice protesters and other groups were kept far from the action at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. But police here say any group protected by the First Amendment could’ve held their own court — had they applied for a permit in a timely fashion.