Freedom of Assembly Is Nice and All, But People Have Hotels to Get To

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A group of 100 or so Occupy protesters camped out smack dab in the middle of the intersection of East Stonewall and South Caldwell in Charlotte this afternoon, surrounded by literally hundreds of police officers. For more than two hours now, they've been waving signs ("Obama's All Lies," "Obama Is a Fucking Traitor," etc.) and occasionally chanting ("Free Bradley Manning!"), but basically, they're just stuck in a stalemate with the massive security force that neither wants to let them any closer to the convention site nor cause a commotion with mass arrests.

The protest would hardly bother the liberal delegates here, most of whom sympathize with the Occupiers to some degree or another. Except that this particular now-impassable intersection happened to be the only way for many of them to get to their hotels, either by foot or via the shuttle buses whose pick-off and drop-off point is nearby. The personal inconvenience caused by the pure expression of someone else's freedom of assembly left many delegates with conflicting emotions.

"I mean, you know, this is fine, they have the right to do this," California delegate Greg Rodriguez told me, "but I don't think we should be penalized for their actions."

"I'm not disparaging their First Amendment rights, but I think when you trample on the First Amendment rights of other people to, you know, freely walk to your hotel room, and get something to eat ... "

Heather Knox, a delegate from South Dakota observing the protesters a few feet away, said that she "respect[s] their First Amendment rights," but at the same time, "it's unfortunate because transportation has been such an issue in getting around so far this week, and this doesn't help."

Even hippies were torn. "I was actually a child of the sixties and seventies, so I was raised to be a very big fan of things like blocking traffic," Paula Diamond Roman, a delegate from Manhattan, said. "It's annoying, I'm annoyed, but it's a tactic that works, and it gets attention, and obviously it's got all this attention. So, sometimes in a world of a thousand channels and thousand media outlets, you have to do something that gets attention." She paused. "But I wish they'd let my bus come and get me."