This morning I wrote about an overnight development in which DNC 2012 demonstrators – including members of Occupy Charlotte – asserted they had been “in talks” with the city to make Marshall Park uptown into a campground for people to set up tents for the week of the convention. As of the time I wrote about and referenced this story, which was reported by the Charlotte Observer’s Cleve Wootson, it was unclear as to whether or not occupiers had actually been in contact with the city to discuss having the city give them special permission to break the anti-public park campaign ordinance strengthened earlier this year by our Democrat-controlled City Council.
In a tweet from earlier this afternoon, the city indicated that no permission had been given from either the city or the county:
— City of Charlotte (@CharlotteNCgov) September 1, 2012
However, local alternative magazine Creative Loafing notes that indeed there was an unofficial agreement of sorts, and has details:
Members of Coalition to March on Wall Street South negotiated with the city manager and city attorney to allow, on good faith, protesters to camp at Marshall Park Friday night.
About 25 Charlotte Mecklenburg Police officers were dispatched to the park and asked activists about their plans for the evening. Interactions betwen police and protesters were peaceful.
Police also informed activists that they were allowed to use the park and most of the parking lot and that they had no plans to kick any out. When officers from Mecklenburg County Parks arrived later and told activists to leave, police told county officers activists could stay.
I wouldn’t bet money on it just yet, but I’m inclined to believe the sourcing of the Creative Loafing article is accurate, considering the announcement a couple of hours ago from an Occupy Charlotte member that around 20 portapotties had been delivered to Marshall Park. I have followed Occupy Charlotte closely since their start in late October in last year, and they were told then they couldn’t have portapotties and they didn’t get them then, even when they were breaking other rules. So I don’t think they’d violate that anti-camping ordinance now and bring in portapotties unless there was a verbal agreement in place that said they could.
Still trying to find out more … stay tuned.
Update – 7:15 PM: Wootson follows up:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. A busload of protesters arrived at Marshall Park Saturday, bringing dozens who joined Occupy Charlotte members in the county park, which is becoming the nexis of protest activity uptown.
But Mecklenburg Commissioner Bill James sent an e-mail to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe reiterating a policy that prohibits camping in county parks.
Protesters told the Observer they’ve worked out a deal with police, who are allowing them to camp there during the Democratic National Convention.
Police spokeswoman Amanda Giannini wouldn’t say whether police made a deal with protesters, but issued an e-mail statement.
“City and County Officials have not given permission to camp in any parks. Local law enforcement is assessing the situation and will evaluate enforcement options to ensure public safety. The City’s intent is to have a peaceful and successful convention.”
Police officers have been watching since the encampment was erected, but have taken no enforcement action.
In an interview with the Observer, James said police asked city and council leaders to pass a law prohibiting camping in parks. “Why would they unilaterally act on their own to violate an ordinance that they asked us to pass?” he asked.
Question of the day.
In overnight developments related to the DNC, the Charlotte Observer’s Cleve Wootson reports that Occupy Charlotte – which used to be based on the grounds of Old City Hall until the city beefed up anti-camping ordinances earlier this year, effectively ending the camping – is back in business and has set up camp at Marshall Park uptown:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. Occupy Charlotte protesters reopened their uptown encampment late Friday night at Marshall Park, a site where they expect hundreds to camp, demonstrate and sleep during the Democratic National Convention.
And protesters said they have invited other protest groups to share the park space, including demonstrators who set up the “Romneyville” encampment near the site of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Occupy Charlotte organizers say they have talked with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police leaders, who they said would allow the demonstrators to camp at Marshall Park throughout the convention. Buses containing as many as 100 people were expected to arrive by early Saturday morning, though protesters said there could be many more by the end of the weekend.
“There’s been some conversation with the city,” said Scottie Wingfield, an organizer with Occupy Charlotte. “We said we wanted to be in a public space. This is traditionally a park where people have met to protest.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police could not be reached for comment early Saturday.
At Marshall Park, an information tent and a smaller tent had already been set up early Saturday. Several police cars were stationed around the park around 2 a.m. An officer stood outside one, peering at the encampment through a pair of binoculars.
Last Fall, Occupy Charlotte protesters opened a camp in uptown Charlotte on the grounds of old city hall. It was broken up in January, when the Charlotte city council voted to ban outdoor camping on public property.
There are already demands being made for tents and other “occupy” supplies:
— ApologizeToCharlotte (@ApologizeToCLT) September 1, 2012
Once more of the local media get wind of this, I will be very interested in reading what CMPD has to say about Wingfield’s assertion that there were talks between the “occupiers” and the city and police to get permission (presumably without a permit) to set up camp. “March on Wall Street South” is predicted to bring between 5,000 to 10,000 protesters to the Queen City (Charlotte) for a march Sunday that will begin at Frazier Park uptown, the “base” of the march. At least one OWS activist confirmed with the Observer earlier this week that demonstrators would attempt to set up tents to sleep in and occupy Frazier Park.
If it’s true and the police gave protesters permission to set up camp at Marshall Park (photo), it makes you wonder why the Democrat-countrolled city council bothered at all earlier this year to strengthen existing anti-camping ordinances to essentially prevent camping on all public property – in advance of the Democrat National Convention in Charlotte. It also makes you wonder if they’ll be inclined to allow activists to do the same at Frazier Park. First and foremost are the public health/safety issues involved. Will Black Bloc types be instigating violence? What about sanitation (which turned out to be a huge issue with Occupy Charlotte)?
I’ll update this post with more information once (if) the police go on the record about whether or not they gave permission to set up a tent city. Stay tuned.