DNC Protest Pics & Dispatch: Charlotte Cops Get Tested, Facilitate Beef Between Activists and Delegates

It wasn't a conspiracy that more protest news didn't come out of the Republican National Convention. There weren't utterly significant events to report, let alone a larger bloodbath for journalists to hang a week of coverage on. Considering the circumstances, authorities in Tampa weren't all that unreasonable; the few arrests that did go down could have been avoided if protesters heeded simple requests from cops. Perhaps officers were just giddy over the new mountain bikes that taxpayers gifted them; but between their good manners and supplying water to activists, it really was tough to loathe the jacket down in Tampa.

Before the Democratic National Convention officially began today, there were signs that Charlotte cops also had some respect for rebels. As early as Saturday, security forces allowed visiting dissidents to set up camp at nearby Marshall Park, where there are currently in excess of 30 tents. Protesters who first settled there over the weekend say that they were first asked to vacate, but were ultimately allowed to stay. Even better, the welcome wagon rolled up an hour later with a row of portable crappers in tow. This is all a major bonus for protesters since – get prepared to throw up in your mouth – many of the “public” parks in Charlotte are privately owned.

On Sunday night, before the delegate masses descended on this cheap excuse for a metropolis, about 800 activists marched through the uptown area. Their demands were staggered – end the war, jail corrupt bankers, things of that sort – but there was one resounding message, and it's the same one that's painted on a number of signs down at Marshall Park: “OBAMA IS A FUCKING TRAITOR.” Hardcore progressives really do dislike the president – no matter how hard the far-right tries to handcuff him to the Occupy movement. And that's the note on which this tide is soon to turn.

After writing the previous three paragraphs earlier today, I got word that Occupiers were back at it, this time rallying for US Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. Shortly after noon, a flock of about 200 – many of whom had an introductory clash with cops late last night – arrived just a toss away from the Charlotte Convention Center. Nudged on the corner of Stonewall and Caldwell – between the designated “free speech zone” and the idiotic NASCAR Hall of Fame – the Occupy contingent finally tested their boundaries, as well as the extent to which authorities here will tolerate their right to assemble.

It wasn't pretty. With activists out in full force, police first stumbled and then overreacted, circling the horde with hundreds of mountain bikes and even motorcycles. And like that, a swarm of bystanders and reporters flooded the zone, snapping pics of the developing madness. Within a half-hour, cops with paintball guns sealed the perimeter, and began making up rules as they went along – who could be where and when, and what would be permitted from whom. It was a turning point if there ever was one. As activists hugged the blacktop and engaged in a two-plus-hour stand-off, the tension became increasingly palpable.

Outside, right now, protesters from as far as DC, Oakland, New York, and Seattle are, as they like to say, tearing up the concrete. They're arguing with delegates, many of whom are hollering right back at them. The cops aren't helping those relations, and at one point even arbitrarily blocked one of the few exits out of the convention zone, which pissed a whole lot of people right off. There have also been a few arrests – one of which police said was for wearing a mask in public – and there's little chance of that trend cooling down. With marches planned through tonight, Charlotte's looking less and less like Tampa every minute.

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