CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- About 100 protesters blocked several uptown Charlotte streets late Monday in an impromptu march that signaled the first significant disturbance of the Democratic National Convention.
One member of the group called it a “test” of police, who vastly outnumbered the marchers.
No arrests were reported.
The group apparently left the Occupy Charlotte camp in Marshall Park about 11 p.m., walking north on McDowell Street and later on Davidson Street. The protesters turned on 11th Street before marching down McDowell Street and ending back at the camp around 12:10 a.m. Tuesday.
A large force of bicycle-riding officers quickly surrounded the protesters, keeping them on the streets but preventing them from walking down some residential roads on the northeast side of uptown. More officers carrying batons and zip-tie handcuffs also walked with the march.
Among the officers following the march was Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who walked at the back of the group.
“We’re trying to protect our neighborhoods,” he told the Observer.
At one point, a protester approached him, thanked Monroe and asked if he could give the chief a fist bump. Monroe smiled and bumped fists with the young man.
But some protesters chanted and shouted at police.
“This is what a police state looks like!” they yelled. “Police everywhere, justice nowhere!”
At times they broke into obscenities: “---- the police!” and “---- the DNC!”
At some points, protesters stopped the march to taunt officers who formed a line with their bicycles.
One woman stood facing a line of officers and pulled a bandana up over her mouth and nose. During Sunday’s March on Wall Street South, a protester was arrested for wearing a scarf over her face and carrying a concealed knife, police said. One other person was also arrested Sunday.But late Monday, police didn’t react to obscenities or taunts from protesters, apparently determined to avoid any direct confrontations.
“This isn’t a protest,” one member of the group said. “This is an articulation of the boundaries of the police state.”
“This is a test march,” said Shangry Gorecki, 32, of Los Angeles. “We want to see how they play.”
Others criticized police for what they called an excessive reaction to their peaceful march. There was at least twice as many officers as there were protesters.
Andrew Speirs, of New York, said the group, which included some anarchists, thought Monday night would be a good time to assert their First Amendment rights.
“We were met with an overwhelming police presence,” Speirs said. “Unnecessary would be a good word.”
William Estrella of Occupy Wall Street said the group was protesting excessive police force. He called the police response to the march a waste of taxpayer money, saying the group could have been escorted by a small number of officers. But he said they planned their march expecting that police would respond in such a manner.
“Charlotte police delivered beautifully,” he said.
At one point, as protesters were walking back toward their camp on South McDowell Street, they passed some DNC delegates and party-goers, who flashed blue wristbands and lanyards with credentials. Some of them were unsympathetic.
“I hope they go to jail,” one woman said.
As the march ended at Marshall Park, many of the protesters trickled back to their tents. But a few remained by the street, where police holding bicycles had formed a line along the sidewalk.
Estrella laid down on the road by the sidewalk as police held their line around him. The officers remained motionless for several minutes until an officer announced, “Everybody’s rolling.”
The officers climbed on their bicycles, leaving the handful of protesters by the sidewalk.
Then, some of the young men briefly laid in the middle of the street before getting up and heading toward the camp.
“We made our point,” Estrella said as he walked away. “We took the streets.”
STAFF WRITERS CLEVE R. WOOTSON JR. AND STEVE LYTTLE CONTRIBUTED.