CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Protesters from scores of groups around the country filled the streets of Charlotte on Sunday afternoon to push their agenda as Democrats gathered in the city for their convention.
The list of grievances was long, and it included issues like the crackdown on illegal immigrants, foreclosures across the country, the environment, gay rights, jobs and labor. But the number of protesters who came to Charlotte might not have been what some anticipated.
Police estimates for the crowd were from 800 to 1,000, although an organizer for the coalition of groups marching put the total at 3,000. Either way, it was more than the number who showed up in Tampa, Fla., last week for the Republican National Convention, when a few hundred participated in protests. Organizers had anticipated anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 protesters in Charlotte, a major banking city.
The numbers on the streets swelled with the addition of hundreds of police officers from throughout the Southeast. There were two arrests. One was of a female demonstrator who violated a local ordinance by wearing a mask and who the police said was found to be carrying a knife. The other was of a man who was watching the event and was accused of public intoxication and assault on a government official.
But as promised by protesters — and assured by the large police presence — it was a mostly peaceful march that focused on issues on a hot, steamy day.
Among the protesters were illegal immigrants from Phoenix, some wearing T-shirts that read, “Undocumented, Unafraid,” and “Arrest Arpaio,” referring to Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County sheriff who has been accused of going after Hispanic immigrants in Arizona.
“We come here because we are tired of the abuse in the community,” said Fernando Lopez, who spoke for the group at a rally in Frazier Park before the march. “We’re tired of being incarcerated every single day. We’re used as the cheapest labor as migrants. Why? Because the United States has been taking care of its business, which is exploit the rest of the planet.”
Bank of America, with its headquarters in Charlotte, was among the main targets of the protesters. The bank continues to be embroiled in controversy over its role in mortgage foreclosures around the country.
Pat McCoy, the director of Action NC, a group that focuses on poverty, called for more robust investigations into lending practices. He said the Department of Justice “until just recently had more people investigating whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress as a baseball pitcher about steroid use than they had investigating the entire U.S. financial system about mortgage fraud.”