Posted on May 9, 2012 at 6:02 AM
Wednesday, May 9 at 5:37 PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Six people were arrested as they tried to force their way into the annual shareholders' meeting for Bank of America in uptown on Wednesday morning.
Hundreds of people gathered on the streets Wednesday morning as dozens of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers worked to contain the protest.
Johnny Rosa of Massachusetts was one of those arrested. Rosa said before he was taken into custody that his home had been foreclosed and he wanted to tell shareholders the foreclosure was wrong because he wanted to make payments.
Shortly before 9 a.m., protesters began converging on the bank's headquarters, and traffic was blocked at the intersection of Fifth and College streets. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police re-routed traffic around the intersection.
Police said approximately 500 people took part in the demonstrations from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., but the protesters said 600-700 people were involved.
"Despite the large number of demonstrators during this time period, there were no significant incidents reported," said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in a statement. "Our strategic operations plan was successfully implemented during the day, which included peaceful demonstrations at several locations in and around the Center City."
Five men and one woman were arrested, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. Keenan Altic of Wilmington, Matthew Pence of Huntersville, Gregory Yost of Marshill and Steven Norris of Fairview joined Rosa in custody with second-degree trespassing charges. Scottie Wingfield of Charlotte was charged with impeding traffic.
Protesters were marching and chanting at the intersection all morning. Several protesters also sat in the middle of Fifth Street, blocking movement through the area.
The protest was organized by Unity Alliance and 99% Power, and they billed their activities as the "Showdown in Charlotte." They protested Bank of America's actions in regard to foreclosures, and the bank's support of the coal industry.
Protesters for the second time tested the city of Charlotte’s new “extraordinary events” ordinance that gives police expanded powers to detain and search people in the vicinity of a major gathering.
Its first use, at last week’s Duke Energy shareholders meeting, was relatively uneventful. Though the police presence was heavy, it did not appear as if any of the several dozen protesters around the utility’s headquarters were searched or arrested. Seven people were arrested after blocking a train from entering a Duke Energy plant in Catawba County.
The bank has said little directly about the protests. In the past, the bank has said it finances coal projects because coal remains the largest source of energy in the U.S., and said it spends money on lobbying to help build thoughtful, sound policy.
Bank of America also points out that it has modified more than 1 million mortgages and has nearly 50,000 employees dedicated to helping people avoid foreclosure.
CMPD: "We were able to adapt"
Police said events like Wednesday's protests at the Bank of America shareholder's meeting and at Bank of America Stadium help prepare the department for the Democratic National Convention later this year.
"The great thing for us was that we were flexible with our plan and we were able to adapt as different conditions presented themselves," said Harold Medlock, Deputy Chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. "I think that everybody—demonstrators, police officers, our community—all would agree that it was a safe and successful day."
CMPD used officers on bicycles, motorcycles and in cars to handle the hundreds of protesters that marched through the streets of uptown.
Deputy Chief Medlock said the department worked with organizers of the protest and knew where they planned to march.
"Everything that we have done in these large operations, the large events that we have in Center City, we try to turn that into a learning experience for us," he added.
Protesters also had a few dozen members who wore orange reflector vests. They helped keep protesters in line, keeping them in the predetermined walk paths.
Police said that they used fewer officers for Wednesday's protest than for this year's CIAA or last year's SpeedStreet events.