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Occupy Activists Prepare to Protest Political Conventions | The Nation

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Allison Kilkenny

Allison Kilkenny

Budget wars, activism, uprising, dissent and general rabble-rousing.

Occupy Activists Prepare to Protest Political Conventions

Occupy Wall Street activists are preparing to travel to Tampa and Charlotte for the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions. The group is planning to charter busloads of protesters south as part of demonstrations beginning in Tampa on August 27.

Local Occupy Tampa activists will likely remain in place through the RNC, despite efforts to move the group from a West Tampa park, ABC reports. Protesters moved to Voice of Freedom Park back in January following the city evicting the group from downtown. West Tampa park is owned by strip club mogul Joe Redner who has given the group an eviction date of September 15.

“Occupy Tampa has stood in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street since its inception, and will function as the host occupation for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL on August 27th–30th, 2012,” the group said in an official statement regarding the RNC, adding that ongoing preparations are being made for the convention protests, including securing sleeping arrangements for occupiers, in addition to canopies, sun screen and portable water containers for protection from the weather.

Occupy Tampa has formed a Regional General Assembly to coordinate Occupy groups throughout the bay area, including: Occupy Lakeland, Occupy St. Petersburg, Occupy Bradenton, Occupy USF, Occupy Port Richey and Occupy Sarasota.

“We have tried to plan as much as possible ahead of time, but we want to leave space open to spontaneously produce additional actions by harnessing the number of people that arrive,” the group states.

Food Not Bombs has called a World Gathering and plans to run feeding operations throughout the RNC. During the week before the RNC, chapters of Food Not Bombs from all over the world plan to convene in order to prepare to feed the flood of protesters entering the city.

“We invite everyone to come and take advantage of the preparations we have made, to help ensure that all occupiers and other supporting groups can use this moment of national attention to confront the political status-quo,” Occupy Tampa states.

Yves Smith notes police have started blocking roads and stopping and searching cars all over the neighborhood surrounding Voice of Freedom park, which is in a black, low income area.

“It’s common for raucous parties to spill out into the streets on Friday nights but all of a sudden the authorities have taken in [sic] interest in shutting them down with a huge police presence,” Smith writes.

Occupy Charlotte made a similar appeal to its supporters regarding the DNC, which kicks off in Charlotte at the beginning of September.

In a written statement, the chapter states:

“The Democratic Party has chosen this ‘Wall Street of the South’ as its rallying city despite North Carolina being one of the most anti-union states in the country and despite Charlotte being the home of several corporate criminals, most notably Bank of America, one of the mega-banks most responsible for the 2008 economic meltdown, Charlotte holds the second largest concentration of finance capital in the United States, the East Coast headquarters of Wells Fargo, the new home of human-rights offender Chiquita, and the home of Duke Energy, which recently merged with Progress Energy, making Duke the largest energy monopoly in the country.”

As perhaps part of a symbolic gesture to the Occupy movement, the Democratic National Committee recently announced it plans to pull some of its DNC-related money from Bank of America. Huffington Post notes that this could potentially be a little awkward, considering President Obama’s re-election campaign continues to use Bank of America for its banking needs.

“Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are controlled by moneyed interests and the 1%, and the Occupy Movement will hold both Parties accountable at the RNC in Tampa in August and at the DNC in Charlotte in September. We cannot allow this two-party system and its corporate puppeteers to determine our country’s destiny. While we recognize the historical significance of President Obama’s election, we will not sit idly by as the Administration favors corporations and the 1%, tramples civil liberties, and wages tragic wars,” Occupy Charlotte says in its statement, emphasizing to visitors that they are a nonviolent movement, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department has treated their chapter with respect and “vice versa.”

At least nine area countries and municipalities have restricted camping on public property so far this year, citing concerns about the Occupy Charlotte movement and potential protests tied to the DNC.

The Charlotte Observer:

Commissioners said they were not looking to curb free speech or people’s right to protest. But they did not want a repeat of last year’s Occupy Charlotte activities.

“I saw the nonsense that went on up there in Charlotte with people urinating on the lawns and some of the rif-raff that was going on, and people defecating out there,” Commissioner Jonathan Thomas said at the meeting. “These radical protest actions create a detriment to the health, safety and welfare of people, and the peace and dignity of the county.”

In an interview, Commissioner Tracy Kuehler said she “did not want to wake up one day and find a tent city on county property.”

The ordinance prohibits on county property any camping, crossing police barricades, setting fires and possession of “obstruction devices” like lock boxes, chains or handcuffs. Also banned are noxious substances such as trash, animal parts, manure, urine and feces.

The camping crackdown started in January, and included granting police more power to stop and search individuals during the convention. The city has added thousands of police from outside departments and spent millions on training, equipment and temporary barriers.

Occupy Charlotte speaks to the Charlotte City Council on the proposed new city ordinances. One individual was arrested for exceeding the three-minute speaking limit:

Police are confident the layout of the city will be their biggest asset (convention-related activities will take place in the heart of the business district, which is flat and ringed by expressways). This will, according the AP, prevent protesters from “causing trouble” in neighborhoods, a reference to the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, in which police famously chased a crowd of demonstrators into the nearby Capitol Hill neighborhood, leading to local residents who had nothing to do with the protests being swept up in the chaos.

Tampa police have also invested heavily in preparing for demonstrations during the RNC. Journalist Rania Khalek reported that the Tampa City Council recently voted on using some of the $50 million in federal grants secured by the city for the 2012 Republican National Convention for a “series of police upgrades” that will include an armored SWAT truck and a high-tech communication system.

The biggest lessons learned by authorities following the WTO protests are that containment and pre-protest neutering of activist groups (preferably via slow bureaucratic suffocation) are the quickest, most sanitized way to kill a demonstration. But if that fails, spending around $50 million on “upgrades” including buying a tank works just as well to crush uprisings.

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