CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 21, 2012 — The eyes of Charlotte, N.C., are focused on the NATO summit in Chicago.
And for good reason. In a little more than four months, the Democratic National Convention will hold its three-day showcase for the re-election campaign of Barack Obama during the first week of September in Charlotte.
The city, which is the second largest financial center in the United States, is regarded by many as the “Gateway to the New South,” which can be both a blessing and a curse come September.
After several decades of unprecedented growth, Charlotte has long craved exposure on a national and a global stage. For years the local joke was that Charlotte was a “world class city” as it struggled to rid itself of the notorious “N.C.” designation. After all, when you mention San Francisco, Houston, Chicago or New York, their state is not required to explain their location.
Thus, the arrival of the democrats was seen as a major coup for the burgeoning community that has begun to emerge from the shadow of Atlanta during the past decade.
Almost from the moment the convention was awarded to Charlotte, local police and city leaders began security preparations to handle the onslaught of an anticipated 35,000 people for the event. As part of that readiness preparation, Police Chief Rodney Monroe and Deputy Chief Harold Medlock were on hand in Chicago with other Charlotte officers to offer assistance to Chicago law enforcement, but also to get first-hand knowledge of the NATO proceedings.
Activists in Chicago have vowed to bring two and a half times the number of protesters to Charlotte in the fall. According to Medlock, as quoted in The Charlotte Observer, “the protest groups are a ‘pretty good representation’ of who will demonstrate here.”
While the nation and the world may be tuned in to Charlotte via television providing the much desired attention, locals have a far different perspective, with many Charlotteans planning to be out of town during the convention.
The influx of visitors was seen as an economic boom for businesses and tourism, but reports from Chicago indicate that sections of the downtown area has become a “ghost town” due to the surge of protesters who have invaded the city. Many businesses and restaurants have chosen to board their windows and simply shut down until the masses of angry humanity dissipate.
Charlotte has no immediate plans to cede downtown streets to protesters as they have done in Chicago. For the moment, Medlock says that gas masks will be readily available, but standard clothing with be the normal police dress with bulletproof vests beneath. Also at the ready will be helmets with masks and shields.
Some 60 organizations from around the United States are expected to be on hand for the DNC events. Organizers with the Coalition to March on Wall Street South have high hopes this will result in 10,000 protesters marching on Charlotte.
Among the better known groups that will come to Charlotte are the Rainbow Coalition of Jesse Jackson and Occupy groups from around the country. The United National Anti-War Coalition, Workers World Party, National Nurses United, and the usual assortment of anarchists are also expected to add to the natural confusion that automatically surrounds an event of the magnitude of the convention.
Though Charlotte seeks positive exposure, it could become the Woodstock of Politics, witnessing turmoil the likes of which has not been seen at a national convention since Chicago in 1968.
On the other hand, perhaps the year-long preparations for the anticipated problems could result in a truly positive image for Charlotte if those plans are a success.
If that is indeed the case, then Charlotte may be able to erase the “N.C.” from its name and in the process become a truly “World Class City.”
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