A security plan unveiled Wednesday for the Democratic National Convention will give demonstrators free access to Tryon and College streets uptown, home of likely protest targets such as Bank of America and Duke Energy.
But a designated protest platform where dozens are scheduled to stage events is tucked into an area with limited access for pedestrians, several blocks from the heart of the convention.
And ordinances the Charlotte City Council passed earlier this year grant police expanded power to stop and search people throughout much of uptown during the event.
Speakers area derided
The citys announcement Wednesday was designed to make downtown seem more open than it is, said Michael Zytkow, a member of Occupy Charlotte.
Zytkow mocked the location of the speakers platform, which gives people an exclusive 30-minute time period to speak with city-provided amplification equipment. The platform will stand at the southwest corner of South Caldwell and East Stonewall streets, directly behind the convention center.
Ive lived in Charlotte all of my life and never seen that land used, Zytkow said. He questioned whether most of the roughly 45 people who signed up to use the platform would show up.
Balancing access, control
Charlotte officials have repeatedly said they are trying to strike a balance between keeping the convention safe and protecting First Amendment rights.
Under the security plan, a one-block radius surrounding the main convention site, Time Warner Cable Arena, is closed to all but those with credentials.
Pedestrians will have access to Tryon and College streets, uptowns busiest thoroughfares.
That means protestors can use the Square at the corner of Trade and Tryon for picketing.
Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann said the city will not enforce rules requiring a permit for people to use amplification equipment.
There will be people walking around with bullhorns, Hagemann said. Theres no sense in trying to permit that.
But new ordinances passed in January prohibit backpacks, satchels or coolers if police believe they are being used to carry weapons.
The American Civil Liberties Union has said portions of the rules give police too much authority. On Wednesday, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina spokesman Michael Meno said the group would send observers to the DNC to help ensure protesters can exercise their rights.