Occupy Movement Targets Charlotte, Aiming at DNC and 'Wall Street South'

Grant Baldwin
Protesters from Occupy Charlotte march earlier this spring. Thousand of protesters plan to march before the DNC on Sunday in what's billed as the March on Wall Street South

The Democratic Party picked Charlotte, N.C., to host its 2012 convention nine months before the Occupy Wall Street movement was born. Now, as Democrats try to cast the GOP as the party of the rich, they face a protest against the elites and wealthy of their own party with Occupy marching around its convention.

A loose coalition of groups and individuals that calls itself March on Wall Street South is organizing a series of events before and during the Democratic convention that decries the so-called 1 percent — banks, large corporations, and other wealthy interests. Much like the Occupy movement, this coalition doesn’t have a well-defined mission aside from a broad denunciation of economic inequality.

“One of the biggest things we want to elevate through the coalition and demonstrations is that Charlotte is the Wall Street of the South,” said Ben Carroll, one of the coalition’s organizers.
Charlotte is home to Bank of America’s global headquarters, Wells Fargo’s Eastern headquarters, and, after a recent merger, the country’s largest power utility, Duke Energy.

The coalition’s main event is a march scheduled for Sunday that will pass the offices of Bank of America, Duke Energy, and Wells Fargo. It also passes the Time Warner Cable Arena, which is hosting the first two days of the convention’s official business, and Bank of America Stadium, where President Obama will accept the nomination on Thursday.

“Charlotte is the second-largest financial center in the country behind New York City,” said Carroll, 24, who describes himself as an independent. “A lot of people don’t realize that.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe said at a recent briefing that he estimates 7,000 to 8,000 people to march in the protest.

“We’re not looking to be heavy-handed,” Monroe said. “Ninety-nine percent of these individuals are peaceful and just want to have their voices heard.… But we do believe we have an element that seeks to do some kind of disruptive behavior. We will look to isolate those individuals.”

The March on Wall Street South is expected to be one of the biggest protests at the Democratic convention and shows how much has changed since 2008 when the party held its convention in Denver, where protests were largely focused around the Iraq war and then-President George W. Bush’s policies.

Now, demonstrations lack that focus, aimed instead at more intangible concerns about economic well-being, an issue not easily pinned on one party. In fact, Carroll’s group is working closely with a similar coalition, called the March on the RNC, that protested at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

“This goes back to our view that both parties, at the end of the day, are serving the interests of the banks and the 1 percent,” Carroll said.

The March on the RNC, however, didn’t turn out the big numbers its organizers were predicting. Only a few hundred protestors turned out after 5,000 were expected. Organizers blamed the lackluster turnout on Hurricane Isaac.

This article originally appeared in the National Journal.

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