Charlotte got a taste of life during the Democratic convention Wednesday, as hundreds of journalists scoped out venues, charter buses rumbled uptown and two dozen demonstrators suggested bigger protests to come.
Around 500 media members from as far away as Japan got their first look at Democratic National Convention venues.
The walk-through began at Time Warner Cable Arena, where the convention will start on Sept. 4. From there it was on to the Charlotte Convention Center, where the media will work, and then to Bank of America Stadium, where President Barack Obama will deliver his nomination acceptance speech.
Wednesdays off-the-record event was designed primarily as a logistical briefing on the accommodations and technical arrangements for an event expected to draw 15,000 members of the media.
Meanwhile, outside the arena, an umbrella of organizations protested the citys plans to draft new crowd-control laws for the convention.
The proposed ordinances would prohibit camping on all city property. In addition, the city proposed a number of prohibited items for someone participating or present as a spectator at any festival or parade. They include bars, chains, shafts, wire, lumber, pipes, handcuffs, chains and padlocks. The proposed ordinances also give police power to search backpacks and satchels if an officer believes they are being used to hide weapons.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinances Monday. City Attorney Bob Hagemann has said he believes the city is protecting First Amendment rights.
Wednesdays protest, which called itself the Coalition to Protest at the DNC, included members of members of Occupy Charlotte and the South Carolina AFL-CIO.
I have always found Charlotte to be a progressive, open city, said Donna Dewitt of the South Carolina AFL-CIO. Now that the DNC is coming, it is closing a gate.
Elena Everett of Occupy Durham said the group was denied a permit to march from Marshall Park to the arena during the DNC. She said city officials told them the Democratic Party has reserved the parks.
Not true, said Hagemann.
The city has said it plans to establish a designated parade route for the convention, as well as a set-aside area for people to protest, as other convention cities have done. The city has said it expects to have a content neutral lottery system set up by the spring for permits.
Hagemann said the city hasnt denied a permit to anyone because it hasnt issued any yet.
Inside the arena, convention organizers also unveiled a new detail of the convention itself.
Unlike recent conventions, the speakers platform site of the keynote address and other speeches will be at one end of the arena floor, not at center court.
Convention CEO Steve Kerrigan told reporters that the arrangement will save money by requiring less work on upfitting the arena. Workers take over the arena in mid-July to build the stage and prepare the venue for several thousand delegates, VIPs and media.
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