North Carolina will host the Democratic National Convention in September, and the Charlotte City Council does not want to leave anything to chance. Earlier this week, the council approved amendments to ordinances that give police greater power and restrict demonstrations in some public areas. The council anticipates large protests during the convention and wants to avoid the assaults and looting that have marred national conventions in other cities.
Occupy Charlotte is the first group to be affected by the law change. The new ordinance specifically prohibits the construction of tents or other temporary shelters on city property. Occupy protesters have camped out on the lawn at old City Hall since October.
Leaders of the local movement say they have had a good relationship with police up to now. Early on, representatives of the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department met with leaders of the Occupy Charlotte movement to discuss the encampment. According to an Occupy leader, the protesters said they were there only to voice their First Amendment rights and to have their grievances heard. Since that meeting, they “haven’t had any problems,” the Occupy leader said.
The new ordinance goes into effect Jan. 30, and most protesters believe most of the campers will leave old City Hall without incident. A handful disagree, though, saying they think some people will not go quietly.
For civil rights groups, both the camping ban and the expanded police authority are troubling. Activists say the ordinance gives law enforcement too much discretion; they will be watching closely to see how that discretion is put to use.
The next step for Occupy Charlotte is to decide what their next step will be. The group plans to meet tonight to discuss the alternatives.
Source: News & Observer, “NC city council OKs broader police powers for DNC,” Mitch Weiss, Jan. 24, 2012