The City of Charlotte is amending its city ordinances to address security while “protecting free speech” in preparation for the Democratic National Convention, but Occupy protesters and city residents have some concerns.
The convention, scheduled for Sept. 3, is expected to bring 50,000 people to the Charlotte area over the three-day event.
Charlotte’s deputy police chief Harold Medlock briefed council members on the proposed changes which will be voted on Jan. 23. The changes prohibit breakable containers, duffel bags, masks, scarves, body armor, police scanners, and “dangerous” items like knives, pipes, and pepper spray. The rules being put in place are being implemented as permanent parts of city code. Additionally, the rules would put an end to Charlotte’s ongoing Occupy protests.
Susan Stabley of the Charlotte Business Journal reports:
…one of the rules would bar camping on city property — no tents, no tarps, no sleeping outdoors. That has been an issue with the local Occupy Charlotte group, one of the spinoff protests across the country tied to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Activists have been camping on the lawn surrounding Old City Hall since October.
Occupiers have expressed concerns that the new rules will effectively silence their protests by prohibiting them from being where they feel is the most effective place to spread their message.
City attorney Bob Hagemann told council members at a recent meeting that the new rules don’t violate the First Amendment, but the city is likely to be challenged in court, the Associated Press reports.