Thursday was a long day but the final day of our detail in Charlotte. We spent very little time around anyone other than protesters so I had plenty of time to see them in action and see how they matched up to the law enforcement plan.
I really don't think this was the varsity of the Occupy Movement. I was not sure why more people didn't participate. What better stage for your (endless) causes than the DNC?
Charlotte has about 1,700 or 1,800 cops. This week they easily had twice that amount from dozens of other agencies. Three hundred alone were on bicycles which, in my opinion, was the best move of the convention.
The bike cops were highly mobile and could move into position quickly. Also on the front line were the mobile field force cops. Those were the guys and girls who, along with the bike officers, had some toe-to-toe time with the demonstrators. They moved in vans and trucks equipped with side rails to hang on to. They moved up and dismounted and were in place in on a few minutes.
The demonstrators were highly agitated with the mobility of the cops. What they wanted to do was break off into smaller groups and "occupy" areas near the Time-Warner Cable Arena. You just can't run amok. Sorry.
By 10 p.m. we were in downtown Charlotte, following the demonstration group of maybe 70 people. We expected hundreds more. Maybe it was the hot (very humid) weather or fatigue from the previous week's RNC in Tampa, but they didn't have thier A-Game going in Charlotte.
The big indicator was the low arrest count--maybe 10 and those were breaking the line. Another thing I noticed that took away from the "Occupy" mystique was the terrible chanting. The main chanter should yell a chant and the crowd follows right? Well, if the chant is too long, some in the crowd can't remember the words so we got a lot of long chants followed by some loud mumbling and puzzled looks. You should not look puzzled when demonstrating.
Another thing: Never underestimate the importance of a drummer with rhythm. The two guys I saw couldn't figure it out. One, two, three, bang! One, two three, bang! What's so hard about that? The drummer guys were never in sync. You must drum in sync!
Another thing, if you bring a band, as they did on Thursday night, remember the band drowns out the chanting! When the band stopped playing and the chanter began chanting what ever it was he wanted to say, one of the officers asked the band if they would play another song. They said "sure" and struck up another tune and thus drowning out the chants. Our secret weapon revealed.
By midnight, the demonstrators were back in the park and for the most part, getting hammered on the drug or drink of choice. The rumor of the 12:30 a.m. demonstration never materialized. They were done. By today, the order to vacate the park was given. The Charlotte cops were going to enforce the eviction today. We were gone by 10 a.m. Outta here! No more dorm rooms and small beds.
Overall, most of the demonstrators I spoke with were okay people who had a cause. Abortion activist, gay rights, political activists, all were people wanting a voice. Please don't include Westboro Baptist Church in that. Those folks repulse anyone and everyone. Karma will take care of them one day.
Privately, I can have a conversation with our demonstrators as long as the cameras weren't rolling. Different story when they are, but that's part of the game. We know that.
Don't stop voicing opinions on your cause. We may have to stand on opposite sides of the line but say it loud and say it proud because I'm okay with that. Just keep the chanting short so you can remember it and for goodness sakes, get a drummer who has some rhythm.