Hundreds Protest Coal, Bailouts, Wars—and Obama

Amy Harder

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the day of the protest. It was Sunday.

The hundreds of people who marched through uptown Charlotte on Sunday protesting everything from coal to bank bailouts to military action in the Middle East shared two things in common: disenchantment with President Obama and a love of signs.

Most protesters interviewed by Convention Daily were either steadfast supporters of third parties or disenchanted with Obama but planning to vote for him anyway. A few—the people the Obama campaign wants to win over—say they’re not going to vote for the president this year despite doing so in 2008.

“There is no party or candidate representing my positions now,” said 59-year-old Rob Denton of Asheville, N.C., who said he was a Republican early in his life, then a Democrat, and now plans to vote for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president. His sign said, “Vote yes: jail bank execs, jail oil execs.”

Police patrolling the demonstration estimated that almost 1,000 people showed up to march in what is expected to be the largest protest in Charlotte all week. The turnout was far smaller than the 5,000 that organizers, working under the umbrella name of March on Wall Street South, had hoped to draw. Organizers of a similar protest in Tampa ahead of the Republican National Convention blamed Hurricane Isaac for its poor turnout. (In Charlotte, the temperature exceeded 90 degrees, potentially high enough to keep some demonstrators away.)

It was a mostly peaceful protest with just two arrests. A woman marching with a mask on, which is against city ordinance, was arrested; police then discovered she had a knife, according to Robert Tufano of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. A man who was not part of the protest was arrested on charges of public intoxication and assault on a government official; the official was not injured seriously, Tufano said.

Police said that a few hundred officers were on hand for the march. In total, there are about 5,000 police officers in Charlotte for the convention.

March on Wall Street South is a loose coalition of some 90 groups. The coalition started organizing the protest last year to decry the so-called 1 percent: banks, large corporations, and other wealthy interests. Much like Occupy Wall Street, this coalition doesn’t have a well-defined mission aside from a broad denunciation of economic inequality. “Nobody should be bailed out—not businesses, not people,” said 41-year-old Eric May, who dressed as the Hulk and plans to vote for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson in November.

One big theme throughout the protest was climate change and related energy issues. The headquarters of Duke Energy, which thanks to a recent merger is now the biggest utility in the country, was along the march’s route, as was Bank of America’s headquarters. Organizers complain that Bank of America is funding polluters because it has loaned $6.4 billion to utilities and mining companies, more than any other U.S. bank, according to the environmentalist group Rainforest Action Network.