Demonstrators seek homes during DNC

Demonstrators seek homes during DNC

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by ELY PORTILLO / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on August 29, 2012 at 11:02 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 31 at 10:03 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Public parks, tents pitched on private lawns, friends’ couches, churches, out-of-town hotels and campgrounds: Those are some of the places where protesters headed to Charlotte next week plan to stay.

The biggest march of the week is expected to be Sunday’s March on Wall Street South, which police have estimated could draw up to 10,000 people.

Many of them are taking buses into town just for the day, but many also are planning to stay for the week.

Other protests will continue throughout the Democratic National Convention.

“We kind of have a network,” said Michael Zytkow, an Occupy Charlotte organizer working with the coalition behind Sunday’s march. “Some people call it couch surfing. We also have a lot of people that are willing to open their backyard, their private land.”

Zytkow said he expects more people to set up tents on private than public property.

“A lot of us know each other through these networks, and there are a lot of phone calls going back and forth,” said Zytkow.

Ben Carroll of the Coalition to March on Wall Street South said many people are still figuring out accommodations.

“Everyone is just exploring any and every option at this point,” he said. “Many people are offering a couch, a spare bedroom, floor space.”

Adam Nuber, 28, of California is staying with a friend in Charlotte during the convention. “He’s actually letting me crash at his place, eat his food. It’s cool.”

At the DNC, Nuber plans to protest for people to have a greater voice in the government, which he said is too influenced by corporate money.

“Frazier Park,” said John Penley, an Occupy activist, when asked where he plans to sleep during the DNC. Penley was interviewed by phone from Tampa, Fla., where he was staying at a tent camp named “Romneyville.”

Police have not said if they will enforce the city’s anti-camping ordinance, which forbids using tents on public property to sleep or store personal belongings.

Penley was confident that protesters would be allowed to stay at the park.

“My expectation is the Democrats will let us stay there at least a few days,” he said. “They’re smart enough to let us alone. We’re not planning to do any property damage, just occupy the park.”

Still, he plans to use a tarp to sleep on to try to avoid running afoul of the anti-camping ordinance.

“I’m going to let people decide if they want to put up a tent,” Penley said. “I’m already out on bail for putting up a tent in North Carolina.”

The Coalition to March on Wall Street South also has published a list of suggested places for out-of-town protesters to stay.

The list includes hotels and motels in Charlotte, Concord and Gastonia, as well as local campgrounds, including at the McDowell Nature Preserve, Statesville KOA and Glenwood Acres RV Park in Charlotte.

It’s unclear if those accommodations have any takers yet. Glenwood Acres owner Phillip Little said he doesn’t know of any protesters who are staying there yet. “No sir, no one’s called me, no protesters,” he said.

The Undocubus group, riding into Charlotte on a bus painted with the words “No papers, No fear” written on the side, is traveling through at least 10 states to demonstrate against laws they believe unfairly single out immigrants.

In Charlotte, about 50 people will sleep on church floors and other donated space.

Some churches were forced to choose between helping the group and the homeless who cannot remain in by-the-week motels during the DNC because of increased prices. Some churches and restaurants also have agreed to donate meals and volunteers are preparing the food.

Keith McHenry, co-founder of the group Food Not Bombs, said he plans to help distribute free food to the protesters. That cause will be helped by low turnout at the RNC protests in Tampa, Fla., largely due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

“We’ve been getting huge amounts of rice and beans to feed this protest, and because of the storm, fewer people came,” said McHenry, whose group has previously fed other protests, including the Occupy movement. “We’ll drive it up to Charlotte and set up more kitchens there, and start sharing the food.”

McHenry said he doesn’t yet know exactly where the kitchens will be set up.

Said McHenry: “I don’t know exactly the address we’ll be in, but we’ll be as close to the protests and convention center as possible.”

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