NATO summit protestors plan to rally during DNC in Charlotte, N.C.

The Charlotte ObserverMay 21, 2012 

— Activists who staged a massive protest march at the NATO summit here Sunday vowed to bring thousands of demonstrators to Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention.

One of the largest rallies in Chicago in years unfolded peacefully when an estimated 4,000 anti-war protesters marched and held an emotional ceremony in which veterans turned in war medals.

But around 6 p.m. a small band of protesters believed to be anarchists clashed with police and reportedly threw bricks and other objects at officers, injuring one. Officers outnumbered protesters and dragged several away.

Officers wore riot helmets and made a show of force as they used batons to force a crowd of unruly protesters who refused to leave in another direction.

The confrontation came one day after demonstrators clashed with police. Saturday night, several hundred people marched in front of landmark buildings and through residential neighborhoods, blocking buses and other motorists.

The events are significant to Charlotte because protest groups are planning to converge on the city en masse hoping to cast media attention on issues ranging from economic inequality and war to the environment.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers helping provide security for the NATO summit, including Chief Rodney Monroe, got a lesson Sunday on what might happen at the DNC. They gathered in a downtown park with gas masks but did not appear to be directly involved in the late afternoon standoff.

Charlotte Deputy Chief Harold Medlock also attended and said Sunday that the protest groups present in Chicago are “a pretty good representation” of who will demonstrate here.

Medlock also said Charlotte officials expect about as many protesters as appeared in the Chicago rally Sunday, though organizers hope to attract as many as 10,000.

A socialist group handed out newspapers urging others to fight “imperialism” by attending the Democratic convention and the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Jerry Goldberg, a Detroit attorney who works with a coalition to stop foreclosures, said he attended a meeting two weeks ago in Charlotte to prepare to demonstrate at the DNC.

“Take a look at Detroit and you’ll see what Bank of America has done to us,” Goldberg said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson attended the rally and said his Rainbow Coalition is planning to attend the DNC. “Charlotte is the gateway to the New South,” he said. “The New South has such a great opportunity to lead the country.”

Charlotte officers on scene

Sunday’s protests were the first action CMPD officers have seen in Chicago. The officers wore typical Charlotte-Mecklenburg police uniforms but with gas masks attached to their leg. Around their right biceps, all the officers wore a bar code that would be scanned if they made an arrest to identify the officer.

“We’re very happy to help a brother agency,” said Acting Deputy Chief Doug Gallant. “This will help with (the DNC), but I think it will also help with just regular policing. We have smaller protests in Charlotte all the time.”

Chicago police have tried different strategies to keep protests under control.

During the day, officers appeared mostly in their regular uniforms, their batons tucked away. At night, most officers responding to protests wore helmets with clear plastic face guards. Some could be seen holding their batons in front of them.

Officers have allowed demonstrators to walk through streets, at times backing up traffic.

Medlock, who is overseeing the department’s planning for the DNC, said Chicago’s policy of seemingly ceding downtown streets to protesters would not be the sole tactic used in Charlotte.

“We might at different times of the day employ different tactics,” Medlock said.

At the DNC, police will keep gas masks at the ready, but Medlock said plans call for officers to dress normally with bulletproof vests beneath their uniforms.

He said officers would have access to riot shields and helmets.

Protesters break through

Protester David Roberts, 30, said he participated in Saturday night’s impromptu marches that saw clashes between protesters and police. Roberts said an officer struck him with a baton when protesters tried to push through a line of police blocking a street and police pushed them back.

After trying to redirect marchers with limited success, police allowed a group of protesters to march freely through streets, stopping traffic as they made turns through outlying neighborhoods.

Roberts said he supported that approach by police.

“Why not let us march where we want to march? It’s a peaceful protest,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he was protesting NATO’s use of military force to dictate foreign policy that violated the human rights of citizens in foreign countries. Roberts, who participates with Occupy protests and supports the Communist Party, said he expects to travel to Charlotte for the DNC.

Jordan Farrar, 28, of Chicago said he is a Communist Party organizer and plans to move to Myrtle Beach to help organize workers and protests for the Democratic National Convention. He described his views as pro-labor and pro-civil rights.

Janet Ulrich, a Chicago resident, walked through the crowd out of curiosity as her husband snapped pictures.

She said she did not mind the disruptions brought the NATO summit.

“I don’t think it hurts anything,” Ulrich said. “They have a right to be out here. I don’t agree with everything I’m seeing. Some of it.”

Doug Miller contributed to this report.

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