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Hundreds march in Charlotte ahead of Democratic National Convention

September 02, 2012|By Hector Becerra
  • Law enforcement officers keep watch as protesters march through Uptown, Charlotte's business district, before the start of the Democratic National Convention.
Law enforcement officers keep watch as protesters march through Uptown,… (Tom Pennington / Getty Images )

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hundreds of protesters marched Sunday in the first of several demonstrations planned for this week’s Democratic National Convention.

The protest was boisterous but peaceful, with police officers lining the route in this city’s Uptown area. Officers watched but did not arrest about two dozen participants who locked arms and sat in front of the Bank of America headquarters. More than 500 demonstrators railed against war, immigration policy and Wall Street, among other topics, hoisting signs with messages like “Bail Out the People Not the Banks.”

A handful held signs or wore shirts advocating for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.

The protest fell short of the thousands expected by organizers, but the Charlotte Observer reported that as many as 90 groups are expected to demonstrate during the DNC -- many more than showed up for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The edges of Hurricane Isaac put a damper on protest activities at the RNC.

PHOTOS: The protests of the DNC

Some groups got creative, with one fashioning a relatively large facsimile of a military drone. Most supported causes to the left though more than a few of the marchers took jabs at President Obama, with signs like, “Arrest the War Criminal Obama” and “Obama Murders Children with Drones.”

Bob Kunst, 70, of Miami Beach followed the demonstrators — though he walked about 100 feet behind the pack. Kunst was protesting the Obama administration, which he said favored policy that was dangerous to Israel and favored “jihadists.” He wore a chain with the star of David around his neck and held a sign that read, “Save Israel America or Save Obama and Lose!”

Kunst said he had also protested at the RNC, where he said he got a good reception. He said while a few people, including some police officers, quietly voiced support for his message, a couple of marchers in the demonstration called him names.

Sunsara Taylor, an organizer from New York for StopPatriarchy.org, a pro-abortion-rights and anti-pornography group, said some members of her group went to abortion clinics to escort and protect women from “Christian fundamentalist organizations.”

In addition, she said group members went to a strip club Saturday night to confront delegates who might be patronizing the business.

“Strip clubs are part of the war on women,” Taylor said. “A lot of the delegates are embarrassed. I don’t think they like having their claim of being the party of women challenged.”

PHOTOS: Scenes from the DNC

Eric May, 41, a small businessman from Charlotte, wore green facepaint, shades and a black shirt with an image of Obama painted like Batman’s nemesis the Joker. May, who said he was protesting government “handouts,” held up a green sign that read simply: “Mad as Hell.”

“If people work hard enough they’ll get houses, they’ll get cars, they’ll get education, but it’s not the government’s job to provide these things,” May said. “The socialist view is to do that.”

He said he wasn’t happy with either Obama or Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate and would vote for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian party candidate. May said he invited friends to march with him. They declined.

“They were afraid of the police presence and the tear gas. I was like, ‘Come on guys,’” May said. “It’s our 1st Amendment [right] and we need to do it.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is serving as the Democratic National Convention chairman, weighed in on the protests.

“As [a former] president of the ACLU, I believe in the 1st Amendment. I don’t have any issue with protesters as long as they are doing so peacefully," he said.

Seema Mehta contributed to this report.

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hector.becerra@latimes.com

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