In John Heilemann’s cover story “2012=1968?,” he wonders whether Occupy Wall Street protesters will do to Charlotte’s Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2012 what demonstrators did to the Chicago DNC in 1968. The North Carolina city, sometimes called the “Wall Street of the South,” is not taking any chances, and is already working to pass an ordinance that would make occupying downtown spaces with tents a “public nuisance,” in addition to banning “noxious substances,” padlocks, and other camping equipment. The fact that it would knock out the city’s current overnight demonstrators is an added bonus.
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said dubiously last month that the rule, which could be enacted in January, is not aimed at a specific group. “Unlike many cities that have well-developed regulations governing protest activity, our local regulations contain gaps that need to be filled,” he said. But a memo about the ordinance does note, “The recent issues related to camping on city property have further amplified the need to review whether the city wants to regulate this activity during the DNC.” A city councilman added of the current Occupy Charlotte faction, “Once those ordinances go into effect, those overnight stays will end.”
A local National Lawyers Guild director says that the rule’s constitutionality might be challenged and could even spur “increased confrontation between protesters and police.” For their part, the protesters say they don’t even have a plan for the DNC yet, but acknowledge the opportunity it presents. “Everybody I talked to said the DNC is ground zero for everything,” said one organizer. “Everybody wants to be involved. We’re estimating several thousands of people coming especially from the Occupy community.” The idea of an alternative convention has been floated, while another Occupy organizer called the DNC “a powder keg.” Tents or no tents, Charlotte “has got a big target on it,” he said.
Related: Will Occupy Wall Street Upend Obama’s Presidential Election? [NYM]