Charlotte, NC – The Coalition to Protest at the DNC held its first press conference on January 18 in Charlotte outside of the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the Democratic National Convention will be held September 3-6. More than three dozen organizations, including labor, anti-war, civil rights, anti-foreclosure, immigrants rights, student and youth groups, and many prominent movement activists have joined together to initiate a coalition that, among other things, calls for:
- Good jobs for all! Economic justice now — Make the banks and corporations pay for their crisis!
- Money for education, health care, housing and all human needs, not for war and incarceration!
- Justice for immigrants and all oppressed peoples! Stop the raids and deportations!
John Heuer, a board member of NC Peace Action and a member of the Eisenhower chapter of Veterans for Peace, opened the press conference by saying, “it is my pleasure that on this week, which honors one of our greatest US heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that I announce the launch of a coalition of more than 30 peace, justice, and community organizations who are coming together to raises their grievances and protest at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September of this year.”
Ayende Alcala, with Occupy Charlotte, affirmed that they would be working to plan and build for actions during the DNC next September, and drew comparisons between the Occupy movement today and Dr. King’s organizing for a massive occupation of DC to demand jobs and justice at the time of his assassination.
“We’re here to demand an end to the war on Black people, here and in Africa—from police brutality and mass incarceration, to AFRICOM and proxy wars across the African continent,” said speaker Efia Nwangaza, founder and director of the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination. Nwangaza continued, slamming the Democratic Party for their “silence on the depression level African American unemployment,” for taking no action to stop racist predatory lending and home foreclosures, and for the continued imprisonment of political prisoners.
Organizers with the Coalition call Charlotte, NC the “Wall Street of the South.” With the world headquarters of Bank of America and the eastern headquarters of Wells Fargo, it has the second largest concentration of finance capital in the U.S. behind New York City. Both banks are notorious for foreclosing homes, holding huge amounts of student loans, bankrolling the prison industrial complex, and funding environmental destruction, among many other crimes against our communities, as noted by Molly Shannon who spoke on behalf of MortgageFraud in North Carolina.
North Carolina is also the least unionized state in the country, with a Jim Crow-era law still on the books that bans public workers from collectively bargaining. Many southern states have right-to-work, anti-worker laws on the books. City workers in Charlotte have been fighting for years just to win the basic right of dues deduction.
Donna Dewitt, president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, raised this issue and spoke about why workers should be mobilizing to protest at the DNC. “Located in the Deep South of historical struggles for civil, worker, immigrant and human rights, North Carolina, like other Southern states, continues the competition to underbid other Southern states to attract corporations that locate to the South for lower wages and exploitation of workers…Elected officials of both major parties have followed the practices of the corporate world in their bid to protect the rich and deny the working families of our country.”
Luis Rodriguez, a local activist and proponent of fair lending practices, spoke strongly about the need for individuals to be included, those who’ve been left out of the political and social conversation. He called for greater outreach to the folks who have been directly impacted by this system.
Ana Maria Reichenbach, an organizer with the UNC Chapel Hill chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, gave a spirited talk that called on young people to come to Charlotte this September. “Working class youth of this country find our prospects of attending a higher education diminished as tuition continues to rise, we’re forced to go deeper into debt with student loans, unemployment rates are soaring and those jobs available fail to provide us with living wages… We are rising up, because we have the right to a dignified life and because we refuse to be a lost generation of jobless, uneducated people. We are rising up because this two party system has failed to meet our needs.”
The City of Charlotte passed restrictive new ordinances to regulate political demonstrations, modeled after regulations passed prior to the DNC in Denver in 2008, on January 23. The ordinances contain a provision that retroactively make it illegal to camp on city property, which is a direct attack on Occupy Charlotte. The City of Charlotte set the eviction date for Occupy Charlotte on Monday, January 30, one week after the ordinances were passed. Occupy Charlotte put out a call for folks to come and help defend the occupation. After many hours standing off with the cops and holding their ground, more than 30 Charlotte cops swept through and dismantled the camp shortly before 3pm on January 30. Seven people were arrested. Occupy Charlotte has vowed to continue to fight the City of Charlotte’s ordinances and to keep organizing.
They have already denied permit requests submitted by the Coalition to Protest at the DNC and informed organizers that the DNC has reserved every park in the city the weeks prior to, during, and following the convention.
Isaac Sturgill with the North Carolina Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, spoke about the impending ordinances that City of Charlotte is considering. He said the NLG will be keeping an eye on what the City of Charlotte does in the coming weeks, and will work with the Coalition and other groups to take appropriate legal action to protect protestors’ rights. Coalition organizers have vowed to challenge the City for the right to protest in the time, place, and manner of its choosing.
The Coalition to Protest at the DNC recently endorsed the demonstrations that are being organized in Tampa, FL during the Republican National Convention there. We will be coordinating with the coalition that has formed around the RNC, and encourage everyone who is able to be in the streets at both conventions. Our grievances are not only with the Democratic or the Republican parties — it’s with Wall Street, the 1%, and the entire system of that these two parties serve and protect.
Already, organizations and Occupy movements across the country are making plans to mobilize to be in the streets of Charlotte during the DNC. For more information on the Coalition to Protest at the DNC and to find out how your organization can join, please visit http://protestdnc.org.