In nine months, the Democratic National Convention will get underway in Charlotte, North Carolina, and in this time of active street-level politics associated with Occupy Wall Street, the city's already working on a plan to control unrest by essentially outlawing occupying. Huffington Post and the local Creative Loafing weekly teamed up on a big feature Friday about the proposed city ordinance (draft PDF here). The ordinance would outlaw "noxious substances," camping, tents, any kind of sign hung from a tree or building, and any kind of obstructing streets and sidewalks. It seems crazy to codify such strict provisos on protest activity, but Charlotte clearly expects big demonstrations at next year's convention. And it has good reason to.
Occupy's plan for the convention still hasn't been developed, so the size and nature of its presence is hard to predict. But the smart money says the Democratic National Convention will see a lot more action than the Republican one in Tampa. In his lengthy Nov. 27 New York magazine feature, John Heilemann wrote that "Among Occupy’s organizers, there is fervid talk about occupying both the Democratic and Republican conventions. About occupying the National Mall in Washington, D.C. About, in effect, transforming 2012 into 1968 redux." There's a plan in place to form an occupation on the National Mall next spring, as we've reported, but so far nothing concrete slated for the conventions. Still, a big part of its political momentum is going to come from putting pressure on Democrats, whose politics still run a lot closer to those of the occupiers, and who therefore have a stake in what Occupy thinks of them. Stuart Rothenberg explains in Roll Call:
While the Occupy movement is likely to show up at the Democratic and Republican conventions in Charlotte and Tampa respectively, activists will potentially be more disruptive in Charlotte.
Republicans can easily dismiss the Occupy crowd as a bunch of radicals, and the more confrontational the protesters look, the better the Republican view will appear.
Democrats will be in an inherently more awkward position, because the party and the Occupy activists will be blaming corporations, the banks, Wall Street and the wealthy for taking advantage of the “little guy” and for refusing to pay their fair share.
That works fine for the GOP, Tim Dickinson wrote in Rolling Stone. " In an epic fail of foresight, the Democratic convention will be held in one of the world's banking centers, Charlotte, North Carolina – setting the stage for violent clashes not seen since the streets of Chicago, 1968." He quoted Grover Norquist saying "I hope they keep this up ... Hippies elected Nixon. Occupy Wall Street will beat Obama."
While Democrats may have a political force to worry about in Occupy Wall Street, it seems crazy that Charlotte wants to put such a firm kibosh on protesters' behavior. As New York saw in its huge march on Nov. 17, two days after Zuccotti Park was cleared, nothing militarizes Occupy activists like a crackdown.
Huffington Post and Creative Loafing got in touch with activists at Occupy camps throughout North Carolina, and from what they said it sounds like at least the local contingents will be there in force. "Everybody I talked to said the DNC is ground zero for everything," Occupy Charlotte organizer Luis Rodriguez said. "Everybody wants to be involved. We're estimating several thousands of people coming especially from the Occupy community." Another activist with Occupy Asheville told HuffPo the anti-occupy ordinance would rile protesters. " 'This type of lawfare is to be expected.' Between the state's anti-union stance and playing home to Bank of America's headquarters, Ramsey expects the DNC here will be 'a powder keg.' The city, he said, 'has got a big target on it.'