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CHARLOTTE – A 21-year-old student led a protest of about 1,000 people through the streets of Charlotte.
Zaina Alsous, who attends UNC-Chapel Hill, marched with a megaphone in hand, leading chants and con trolling the crowd.
“No papers, no fear, immigrants are marching here!” the crowd chanted, marching down College Street. “Education, not deportation! Education, not deportation!”
The March on Wall Street South was an amalgam of about 70 groups, protesting for abortion rights, immigrant rights and clean energy and against Wall Street bailouts, fraking and use of drones in war zones.
It was hot – felt like 100 degrees out there.
At the front of the crowd was Alsous and her compatriots, carrying a banner that read: IT'S TIME TO BUILD PEOPLES POWER.
“We're hoping to uplift a people's agenda, strongly related to economic justice, good jobs, living wages, respect and dignity for all human beings,” said Alsous, “especially undocumented workers.”
It wasn't the crowd of 15,000 or so that has been advertised or reported. Alsous said it can be difficult to mobilize when you're using social media and not direct contact.
A hodge-podge of signs made its way down Trade Street from Frazier Park, where the protestors rallied, toward the intersection of Tryon Street.
Signs like: “It's time for a new deal” (playing off FDR's massive government program that got the country through the Great Depression), “Resistance is Fertile” (The Borg were nowhere to be seen in uptown Charlotte), “Boycott the Vote” (as opposed to Respect the Vote, another rally going on around the corner), and “Republicans and Democrats are both pro-war and pro-Wall Street” (a common theme among the protestors).
The most sardonic: I am generally displeased with our current state of affairs. (H/T to Chris Miller with WBT-AM for that find.) An ironic wink at the protestors, no doubt.
Along the protest route, police escorted the mass, forming human walls at intersections, and walking along the perimeter as the sweaty mass chanted.
In the middle of it all was the media, walking in front of, and among, the crowd. (Our own Becky Bereiter, Jim Newman and Todd Baldwin were in the thick of the protest, doing live shots. Watch their report here. )
Despite the disparate messages, the protestors were serious about their causes.
Near the back of the crowd, a group from The World Can't Wait, an anti-war group, pushed a model of a Reaper drone on a rolling stand.
Lina Thorne, 33, from Houston, Texas, marched behind the model drone.
“Thousands of people are being killed by these drones,” said Thorne, “and it's actually a war crime. We're here to challenge the people of this country to stand up, to protest, to resist, to refuse to accept that which we wouldn't have accepted from George Bush.”
Thorne's message: Because President Barack Obama is a Democrat, that use of force under his administration is somehow considered good, or just not a big deal.
“A lot of people are going along with this because Obama is doing it, it's the Democrats,” she said, “Going along with drone strikes, going along with the fact that Guantanamo is still open, that indefinite detention has been enshrined into complete law.
“This is the kind of thing that people were protesting under Bush,” she said, “and now you don't hear people speaking up about it.”
As the group turned the corner on South Tryon Street, toward Duke Energy, the chant changed to “No coal, no nukes, no frackin' way!”
The mass stopped between the Duke Energy building and The Charlotte Observer and took a breather.
“Beat the heat, take a seat!” they chanted. One protestor was dehydrated and laid on the grass, where emergency workers attended to her.
(Our photographer Nick Pironio captured that scene and caught flack from other protestors as he tried to make pictures of that scene. It was in a public place and the picture was fair game. The same First Amendment gives them the right to protest gives us the right document it.)
While at Duke Energy, organizers lectured in English and Spanish about clean energy and against fracking, then continued on, passed Bank of America Stadium and back to the park.
At the corner of Graham Street and Martin Luther King Drive, the owner of a parking lot yelled at a protest photographer to get off his property. The owner told them to get off his property, and the photographer yelled back, snapping pictures as the owner yelled.
We talked with the parking lo owner after protest passed by; he wouldn't give his name, but said he had property rights and he was going to protect them.
“I didn't have to ask them to get off my property, I told them,” he said.
Otherwise, there wasn't another disturbance that I could see. Protestors were polite to police and police were respectful of the protestors. There were some terse words exchanges, mainly police keeping people toward the center of the street, away from the fenced off sidewalks, but that's about it.
If the protestors have any effect on policy that will be discussed this week in the convention center and arena, well, that remains to be seen.
Their voices were heard, though, reverberating off the steel and glass in uptown Charlotte.
Follow Ben McNeely on Twitter at @benmcneely for behind-the-scenes views of the Democratic National Convention this week, and follow all of News 14 Carolina social media coverage this week here.