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Charlotte Braces For Democratic National Convention

Sep 3, 2012
Originally published on September 3, 2012 4:56 pm

Delegates, journalists and protesters are beginning to fill the streets of Charlotte, N.C. The city has a lot riding on the Democratic National Convention, which gets under way Tuesday.

Hundreds of protesters paraded around the downtown area of Charlotte — which residents call Uptown — gathering in front of Bank of America headquarters.

"We are here today to protest against these criminals, these criminal bankers, who are responsible for the eviction of millions of people from their homes throughout the United States of America," said one unidentified protester with a megaphone.

The city has been preparing for the convention and the protests for months, taking extraordinary security measures.

"There's no denying that this represents a singular moment in the city's history," said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. "It's also no secret that with that level of global exposure, and the very nature of this event, that the level of security is higher than any event we've hosted in our city before."

The city passed an ordinance creating a 100-square block security zone in which almost anything might be banned: handbags, backpacks, water bottles, scarves — even bike helmets are on the list of potential contraband.

While local officials are anxious about security, local business owners are anxious about getting enough customers.

"We usually give cops half price," said James Bazzelle, who with his wife owns Mert's Heart and Soul, a soul food restaurant. "I told them we're not doing that for all the cops this week — they're so many of them."

Bazzelle, who's owned his business for 14 years, worries that business from the convention won't live up to the hype.

"There's been a lot of anxiety," Bazzelle said. "But like everybody I talk to, my vendors or my employees, everybody is saying the same thing: 'We'll get through it; we'll just roll with what we got.' "

Bazzelle says he and other business owners wonder whether delegates and other visitors will actually have any time to stop and spend any money.

But in one area of town, generators line the street, where an electrician has been hard at work.

"I got all my generators set out just waiting on the vendors to get here," said electrician Rick Eudy.

Eudy's been working 16 hour days, and he's not complaining.

"Any big event always brings money," he says. "I'm sure that Charlotte will bring in some big money. A lot of visitors in town, a lot of dignitaries."

Politics aside, Eudy says big money is exactly what Charlotte needs.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The situation in Syria certainly has the attention of the White House. President Obama also has his eye on politics this week, as the Democratic National Convention opens in Charlotte. The president is running neck-and-neck in polls with his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. As NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, the city of Charlotte has a lot riding on this week's gathering, as well.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Charlotte, North Carolina is one of the best examples of the new South. One of the main reasons is everything is so new. I'm standing on a corner in the neighborhood called Uptown, which is the city's central business district. And as I turn around, I can see the Bank of America corporate headquarters. And I look down the street, and on every corner that I turn in, there's almost no example of any architecture that's over 20 years old. The main reason is because of Bank of America and the banking industry. And that's why people came here to protest.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: This is what democracy looks like. Tell me what democracy...

GLINTON: Hundreds of protesters paraded around Uptown, Charlotte. They call their downtown area Uptown here in Charlotte. They gathered in front of Bank of America's headquarters.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We are here today to protest against these criminals, these criminal bankers who are responsible for the evictions of millions of people from their homes throughout the United States of America.

GLINTON: The city has been preparing for the convention and the protests for months, taking extraordinary security measures. Here's Charlotte's mayor, Anthony Fox.

MAYOR ANTHONY FOX: So there's no denying that this represents a singular moment in the city's history. It's also no secret that with that level of global exposure and the very nature of this event, that the level of security is higher than any event that we've hosted in our city before.

GLINTON: The city passed an ordinance creating a 100-square-block security zone in which almost anything might be banned: handbags, backpacks, water bottles, scarves, even bicycle helmets are on the list of potential contraband.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

GLINTON: As local officials are anxious about security, local businesses are anxious about, well, business.

JAMES BAZZELLE: We usually give cops half price. I told them we're not doing that for all the cops this week. There are so many of them.

GLINTON: James Bazzelle and his wife own Mert's Heart and Soul, a soul food restaurant. I asked him what's good to try on the menu.

BAZZELLE: The fried chicken, of course. You're in the South. Everybody get fried chicken. Blackened pork chops are really good. And believe it or not, what people talk about the most is our corn bread.

GLINTON: Bazzelle, who's owned his business for 14 years, worries that business from the convention won't live up to the hype.

BAZZELLE: There's a lot of anxiety. You know, there's been a lot of changes, but, I mean, everybody I talked to - my vendors, our employees - everybody say the same thing: We'll get through it. We'll just roll with what we got.

GLINTON: Bazzelle says he and other business owners wonder whether delegates and other visitors will actually have any time to stop and spend any money. I met Rick Eudy, who was driving a tractor through town. He's is an electrician.

RICK EUDY: I've got all my generators set out, just waiting on the vendors to get here, start hooking their electrical stuff up.

GLINTON: All up and down this street, huh?

EUDY: Yeah, all the way down it. See all those vendors, their generators setting on the sidewalks. That's what I set out.

GLINTON: There were generators as far as you could see. Eudy's been working 16-hour days, and there's one reason he's not complaining.

EUDY: Any big event always brings money. I'm sure that Charlotte will bring in some big money. A lot of visitors in town, lot of dignitaries.

GLINTON: Politics aside, Eudy says big money is exactly what Charlotte needs. Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Charlotte. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.