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Protesters occupy Charlotte intersection, keep D.C. Mayor Gray from voting rights speech

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Dozens of protesters shut down a downtown Charlotte, N.C., intersection on Tuesday as they spent roughly two hours in a stalemate with police blocks from the Democratic National Convention, chanting a hodgepodge of complaints ranging from abuse of political power to a lack of paychecks.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe said at least one person was arrested during the protest — for crossing a police line — but the relatively peaceful occupation did not require officers to rush to remove the men and women sitting in the turn lanes.

The slow-motion protest did inconvenience one convention attendee. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray told reporters he missed his 30-minute free-speech platform on voting rights for the District because he was stuck in traffic.

"It shouldn't have impeded or been an obstacle to do what it was we came to do," Mr. Gray said.

About an hour after the protest started and a tent was placed in the middle of the intersection, a group broke off to attend an animal rights protest, while New Hampshire primary contender — and Internet meme — Vermin Supreme arrived with a black boot on his head and began to lead his own march, dividing the day's protest and dispersing police.

Riding his bicycle along with the marchers, Columbus, Ohio, resident Tom Over said it seemed the protest was "mostly leftist," but he'd "like to see more people getting involved."

"We're doing a good job in terms of action," he added, but hoped fellow protesters "don't get bogged down in a cat-and-mouse game with police."

Hundreds of protesters descended on the Southern city over the weekend with few arrests, and by the second day of the convention, the tent city established in Marshall Park amounted to only a few dozen tents.

An ice sculpture that spelled out "Middle Class" was slowly melting at one end of the park, while handmade signs posted throughout the park advertised opinions such as "Mr. President — where is my job?" and, "Collateral damage; my American dream."

Bobby Lamorte, a 21-year-old member of the original Occupy Charlotte, said he returned to the cause because "I want Obama out of office. I think he lied."

Mr. Lamorte said the current occupation in the park was different from the previous location across the street from the police department.

"For what it's worth, it's been all right," Mr. Lamorte said. "It's looking a bit more successful."

Police have left the camp alone for the most part, he added, though outside the park, security has tightened with the official opening of the convention Tuesday evening.

For nearly two hours, protesters banded together in the intersection, using a portable microphone to speak their mind while a few chose to sit at the feet of police officers on bicycles and motorbikes.

Curious onlookers, reporters, cameramen and police officers easily outnumbered the protesters.

Tracy Moore, a 45-year-old Charlotte resident, said she expected a greater presence of protesters, but said the unpredictable rain could have run off some participants.

The unemployed woman said she came out to support the protest because "another month without a job, I could end up in an Occupy camp."

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