CHARLOTTE, NC — So far, the street protests at the Democratic National Convention seem to be much larger than anything seen at the RNC last weekin Tampa. This afternoon, streets had to be closed and checkpoints were moved when a group of protesters took to the street on Stonewall Street a couple of blocks from the site of the convention. Politicker came out to see the protests and so did Joseph Smith from Port Hueneme, California, who was wearing an “Obama” basketball jersey and said his wife was a delegate. Mr. Smith got into shouting matches with several of the protesters, many of whom were cursing the president. Mr. Smith told Politicker he thought the protesters were being “disrespectful” and he suggested the protesters, who were mostly white, were working against minorities.
“I think it’s disrespectful in general for people,” Mr. Smith. “You’re talking about Obama did this and did that. George Bush did it, Senior and Junior, but they seem to forget. … If you really want to know what it’s about, it’s black and white.”
One of the protesters bristled at this characterization and pointed the minorities in the protest group out to Mr. Smith who dismissed this by saying, “You always had Uncle Toms in slavery.”
“You had two kinds of slave. You had slaves in the field who were working and suffering and you had those in the house with their masters and they loved their masters more than they loved themselves,” Mr. Smith said. “You’d think in 2012 this wouldnt exist, but this is really 1864 and 5.”
One of the protesters informed Mr. Smith he was “offending” her.
“I don’t care,” he snapped back.
The tension between Mr. Smith and the protesters wasn’t the only sign of discord at the demonstration. This afternoon’s protest contained contingents from several different groups including Occupy Wall Street, Yippies and Veterans For Peace. Many of the disparate groups who filled the ranks of the protests had different concerns.
Vermin Supreme, the presidential candidate known for wearing a boot atop his head was there with a group of his supporters who carried signs saying “TEETH” and “PONIES.” For his part, Mr. Supreme said he was simply protesting to make himself heard.
“I’m here today to peacefully assemble, to exercise my free speech and free assembly rights, to communicate with my elected representatives in government,” shouted Mr. Supreme through a megaphone. “I just want to say, ‘Hello, how are you? ‘It’s good to meet you, good to greet you.'”
We spotted a young couple who was laying on the asphalt a few feet away from Mr. Supreme. They wouldn’t give their names, but they said they planned to remain on the ground until they were allowed to enter the convention center.
“We’re waiting for them to let us go to the convention center so the veterans can take their message to the Democrats,” the male half of the pair explained.
The man said he was “not a vet” but was “marching in solidarity with the vets.” We asked him what he believed the veterans’ issues were.
“The issue that the veterans are brining up is anti war and ‘Free Bradley Manning,'” he said referencing the soldier who is currently imprisoned for allegedly leaking classified information to Wikileaks.
His female companion said it was “difficult” to explain who they were there protesting with.
“There’s different organizations; there is Occupy Charlotte, Occupy Water Street Occupy DC, Alliance DC, then you have the unions, the vets joining us,” she said. “All that we want to do is just use freedom of speech.”
Nearby, we spotted another man named Bob Andre who said he was there with Occupy Wall Street and that he had also protested the RNC in Tampa. Mr. Andre said the DNC protests were “better” and said the purpose of the protest was “to expose how fake and how lawless Obama is.”
As the protesters argued with Mr. Smith, a man with a beard tried to stop them by shouting “This is ridiculous!” He told us his name was Brent Lengel and that he was there on behalf of “Occupy Wall Street and the Yippies.”
“This march is about Bradley Manning. This is done by Veterans For Peace. This is ridiculous getting into it about Obama, it’s absolutely insane,” said Mr. Lengel. “There are some belligerent people who have a lot of very high emotions and are mad about a lot of things. They’re arguing with each other….They’re saying stupid shit like, ‘Fuck Obama.’ That’s not helpful, we need to stay focused on the issue here. We need to stay focused on the fact Bradley Manning is still in jail for exposing a war crime.”
At the moment, the protesters, who would like to get to an intersection one block closer to the convention center, are still involved in a standoff with a line of policemen who have blocked their path. As we left to file this story about an hour-and-a-half ago we spotted the young couple we spoke with getting up off the ground.