Hundreds of people in Charlotte took to the streets on Sunday to voice their discontent with corporate dominion over US politics and called for a renewed challenge to the Democrats ahead of their National Convention this week to pay attention to the challenges and demands of those still struggling amid a continuing housing crisis and deep recession.
Putting a focus on big banks and the financial industry, the crowd marched through the business district of Charlotte, walking from downtown Frazier Park and targeting major corporations along their route, including Bank of America’s world headquarters, Wells Fargo’s eastern headquarters, the Time Warner Cable Arena, and the Bank of America Stadium.
Some protesters carried anti-Wall Street signs reading "Capitalism is holding back the human race" and "Bail out people, not banks."
As the Associated Press reports, other demonstrators "had anti-war signs as well as those promoting unionized labor and the plight of undocumented immigrants. One read: 'Bankrupting America' with a font and logo that mimicked Bank of America. Another said: 'Obama Murders Chilrdren with Drones.'"
Andie Marion, a college student the Asheville area, told NBC News her chief concern was "money in politics."
"The amount of corporate power that influences a lot of the politics I think is really huge," she said.
The protesters boycotted so-called "free speech zones" set up by the city ahead of the DNC, which officially begins on Tuesday. They did, however, receive a city permit for their 3 mile march.
Sunday's protesters also faced "special event" security measures put in place by the city of Charlotte which advocates of civil liberties see as pushing the bounds of restrictions on constitutionally protected rights.
Starting at midnight on Saturday and continuing through the upcoming convention, as the Associated Press explains, "changes to city ordinances adopted earlier this year for “extraordinary events” ban a long list of actions and items that would otherwise be legal from a more than 100-square-block zone. The area includes spots as much as a mile from the sports venues where the Democratic Party events are to be held."
One section of the ordinance forbids possession of “a container or object of sufficient weight to be used as a projectile,” which, critics argue, is so loosely worded that it could be interpreted to include almost anything, from a piece of a brick, to an iPhone, to a piece of fruit.
Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, told the AP that some of Charlotte’s new measures could violate constitutional protections, depending on how they are enforced. Brook said he’s especially concerned by language that bars bags “carried with the intent to conceal weapons or other prohibited items.”
“I think it’s exceptionally difficult to divine whether someone is carrying a backpack for their books or carrying a backpack with the intent to conceal weapons,” Brook said. “I think that could easily lead to standardless searches. I think it could easily lead to situations where there is some profiling going on, for example a person wearing a business suit might be far less likely to be searched than some other individuals who might be downtown.”
In any event, the new restrictions did not deter turnout on Sunday, though numbers were not nearly as high as organizers had hoped.
Still, those in attendance did not hide their reason for marching and hoped that their voices would be loud enough to make their demands heard.
"Regardless of any attempts to vilify protesters, regardless of any attempts to scare us away, we will be undeterred. We will show up en mass to raise the people's agenda," says Michael Zytkow of the Coalition to March on Wall Street South.
"Despite the fact that the bailouts were four years ago, and there’s been officially declared an end to the recession, the everyday reality for people is a much different story,” Ben Carroll, another organizer of the coalition, told the Charlotte News & Observer. “People still see and feel in their everyday lives that the banks are responsible for so many injustices in their communities.”
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