Local leaders’ efforts to push for more democracy in D.C. at the Democratic National Convention got off to a rather chaotic start Tuesday, when a police operation interfered with a downtown Charlotte rally.
The original plan was that the rally, organized by D.C. Vote, would take place in front of Charlotte’s Federal Reserve bank branch — a symbolic gesture for an event highlighting the city’s lack of control over its locally raised tax dollars. But the bank site, only a block from the arena where the convention is being held, was too far inside the security perimeter to be practical. So the rally was moved to a designated “speaker’s platform” — a soapbox of sorts farther from the arena, where any cause can reserve a half-hour to espouse as they please.
The problem, as explained by D.C. Vote spokesman James Jones: Shortly before things were set to get underway, a group of Occupy-style protesters occupied a street near the designated rally area. In what Jones called a “huge display of force,” police swooped in, swept up the Occupy-ers and, in the process, cordoned off the area in such a way that many of the D.C. protesters couldn’t get to their protest.
That included the rally’s two top-billed speakers — Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who were stuck in traffic approaching the scene.
Jones et al. fought to get about 40 other protesters, moving on foot, through the police line. “It was a little tense,” he said. “I was a little tense. I was perhaps not as polite as I should have been.”
By the time they got through, half of the group’s allotted 30 minutes had elapsed — still enough for members of the District’s shadow congressional delegation and a few D.C. Council members to speechify.
Alas, the police line meant they didn’t have much of an audience for the pro-budget autonomy message. But that’s OK, Jones said: “It was never really intended to be something that reached a super-wide audience. It’s about taking the message into the convention, which we’ll do for the rest of the week.”
In better news: At least one of the two billboards purchased by Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown (D) is up in Charlotte. A group of D.C. activists posed by it yesterday — as seen in the above photo from Nate Bennett-Fleming, the Democratic nominee for shadow representative.
However, that billboard is some ways from the convention site, next to a railroad overpass in an industrial area. Brown said the other billboard is much closer to the action; I await pictures of that one.
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