CHARLOTTE, N.C. A tropical downpour in Tampa may douse some protest plans at the Republican National Convention this week. But organizers say Isaac could also affect demonstrations at the Democrats’ convention next week – boosting the number or the resolve of protesters determined to reach a national audience in Charlotte.
Charlotte’s weather forecast for the week of the Democratic National Convention is still unsettled, but prepare for humid highs in the low 90s and a chance of thunderstorms. That’s mild compared with what protesters and others are enduring in Tampa.
According to forecasts, Isaac could become a Category 2 hurricane as it hits the Florida Gulf coast, and it is bringing heavy rain and 40 mph winds to the RNC host city. Convention organizers have postponed events by a day.
It was unclear if protest activities in Tampa will go on or be well-attended.
Michael Zytkow, an organizer with the Occupy Charlotte movement, said the number of protesters – or their fervor – could increase in Charlotte if demonstration efforts in Tampa are frustrated by rain.
“For so many activists, this has been a year’s buildup,” Zytkow said. “A lot of these folks are super-committed. We know they’re going to make the trip (to Charlotte) no matter what happens in Tampa.”
Protesting is typically an outdoor activity. Some of the protesters plan to erect a tent city in uptown’s Frazier Park. Almost all the large protest events will expose demonstrators to the elements. And protesters can walk miles in a day to get convention-goers and the national media to hear their messages.
Charlotte protest activities include an outdoor festival, a three-mile protest march and a “parade route,” all outdoors in or near uptown Charlotte.
In Tampa, many protesters are camping in a tent city called Romneyville, organized in part by an Asheville man named John Penley. For Penley, who is planning a similar encampment at Frazier Park, Tampa’s “Romneyville” is practice.
In Charlotte, overnight camping on public land like Frazier Park is illegal.
“We’re all really excited,” he said. “By the time we get to Charlotte, we’re going to be a well-trained encampment. This is the DNC boot camp.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesmen did not return messages seeking comment. Police have said they expect as many as 10,000 protesters in Charlotte for the DNC starting this weekend. Protest organizers say some will make the 600-mile trip from Tampa after the RNC.