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City, prepares for BofA protesters, gives police expanded powers

For the second year in a row, the city of Charlotte has granted police expanded powers for Bank of America’s annual shareholders meeting.

According to the city, the “extraordinary event” declaration affects a roughly 72-block section of uptown from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. The shareholders meeting is set to start at 10 a.m. in the Charlotte Marriott City Center hotel, 100 W. Trade St.

“Bank of America locations have been the target of (protests) in the past by well-organized groups,” according to the declaration, signed last week by City Manager Ron Carlee.

A memo from Police Chief Rodney Monroe to Carlee says the event will require “significant public safety resources.” The memo does not say how many police officers will be needed uptown.

CMPD Maj. Jeff Estes told the Observer Monday that the department, as policy, does not disclose the number of officers who will provide security for such an event.

He said CMPD is expecting hundreds of protesters this year – but fewer than last year’s 500 to 600. He credited last year’s Democratic National Convention with creating buzz about Charlotte and, therefore, luring more protesters to the city for last year’s shareholders meeting.

CMPD will have at least one of its helicopters circling uptown Wednesday, he said. But police presence in other parts of the city won’t be reduced in order to put more officers in uptown during the shareholders meeting, he said. Rather, he said, the additional officers will be provided by rearranging schedules.

At last year’s Bank of America shareholders meeting, some streets and intersections were blocked as protesters paraded through the city toward the Charlotte-based bank’s headquarters building at Trade and Tryon streets. Protesters criticized, among other things, the bank’s foreclosure practices.

Bank of America’s 2012 shareholders meeting marked only the second time the city had made an extraordinary event declaration, after the City Council authorized such declarations in preparation for the DNC.

The declarations ban people from bringing a range of items into the zone, such as hammers, fireworks and other things that can be used as weapons. The declarations also give police officers more latitude to stop people who appear to have one of those items.

“Ordinarily, you can carry around a pipe in your backpack all you want,” Estes said. “But during an extraordinary event, when those items we know are used as weapons … We’re allowed to investigate those items.”

Gary Oikemus, director of hotel operations for Marriott City Center, said Monday that he’s heard protester turnout will be lower than in 2012. “But I don’t think anyone knows for sure.”

Still, his hotel is approaching preparations for the event the way it did for the DNC, with guest safety a key focus, he said. “Your preparation is certainly different than your normal everyday preparation.”

Kerul Dyer, spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network, which is helping organize Charlotte-area events to protest Bank of America’s financing of the coal industry, said she expects fewer protesters compared with last year. She said she attributes that to Bank of America’s participation in the National Mortgage Settlement.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, which is wary of the extraordinary event ordinance, won’t be in Charlotte for the shareholders meeting, Chris Brook, legal director for the state group said. But the organization will be closely following coverage of the event, he said.

Some other events for which the city has called extraordinary event declarations are the CIAA basketball tournament earlier this year, last year’s Food Lion Speed Street festival and last year’s Duke Energy shareholders meeting.

Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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