CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Occupy Wall Street protesters settled into their new home here for the Democratic National Convention, wary of law enforcement but thankful for what some consider an upgrade from Tampa, Fla.
The protesters are lodged at both Frasier Park and Marshall Park in Charlotte. Many of the protesters made the trek north following the previous week’s demonstrations at the Republican National Convention, arriving both Friday and Saturday.
While a recent city ordinance prohibits the protesters from camping in the parks, the regulation is not being enforced — much to the chagrin of local law enforcement officials.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James tweeted, “There are some serious legal issues related to the #cltcc decision not to enforce the camping ordinance.”
Local news channel WBTV reported that city officials had not come to an agreement with the protesters, nor had the protesters been given permission to camp in the parks. Protesters camping in the parks were, in effect, in violation of the ordinance.
Some in the camp believe that the parks have been bugged with audio and video surveillance by law enforcement. One protester, who spoke to TheDC under an alias, insisted upon leaving the camp before divulging sensitive information.
Regardless, multiple protesters told TheDC that they are pleased with the new accommodations.
“This park is the most beautiful park I’ve had the honor of occupying,” one person said.
“I’m actually kind of worried that people are going to want to stay here instead of going back to Occupy Wall Street,” said another.
Within Marshall Park, some slept in tents, while others slept on stone benches adjacent to a colorful lighted fountain. The park is over 6 acres in size and contains an amphitheater, paved walkways and lawn space, as well as a Holocaust memorial and a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
TheDC also noticed other issues around downtown Charlotte, which included the seeming lack of coordination between local and out-of-town forces, including some units from as far away as Virginia and South Carolina. The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service was also present.
Many of the out-of-town police officers were unable to answer simple questions about the location of various points of interest in Charlotte. At one point, in order to control the flow of traffic, an exchange between two confused police officers revealed that they were content in having people drive around the city in circles.
Other chief differences between RNC and DNC security forces were their uniforms, tactical gear and vehicles.
Vermin Supreme, political activist and satirist, told TheDC, “I don’t like that they [security] are wearing all black with slacks. They’re just going to get hot and angry, and they might take that out on my guys. At least in Tampa, they could wear comfortable clothes.”
While the police in Tampa used primarily golf carts and bicycles, security in Charlotte were also equipped with BMW motorcycles and Suzuki motocross-style dirt bikes.
Additionally, protesters seemed frustrated at the group’s poor planning. One demonstrator, badly sunburnt from the daytime march, told TheDC, that while he was glad to be in Charlotte, “I don’t understand why we aren’t choosing shaded areas and are sitting in the heat all day. It isn’t safe, and it doesn’t make any fucking sense.”