CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As Democrats arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina for their party's national convention - where they will formally nominate President Obama for a second term - they were greeted by hundreds of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Many of the protesters are concerned about the influence of corporate money in politics.
In Charlotte, the protests are bigger and livelier than similar events at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. because protesters say this is where President Obama and the Democratic Party are meeting to chart a path forward for the next four years.
"The Democratic National Convention is a big tent for everything that America is," said Sheri Bailey, who traveled from Washington, DC to Charlotte, North Carolina not as a Democrat supporting Obama, but as a protester hoping to have her voice heard.
"This is how this country was forged, through protest, of speaking your voice clearly, and we've lost a lot of that over the last few decades," she said.
Bailey was among hundreds gathered in Charlotte for a week of events targeted at "Wall Street South," organized by activists like Sara Flounders. "The city of Charlotte is the second largest financial center in the country after Wall Street, and is considered Wall Street South. That's actually why the DNC chose it. It is a major corporate banking center," she said.
Organizers say the protests here in Charlotte are an extension of the Occupy Wall Street protests across the country, targeted at companies like Bank of America, and the largest power company in the United States, Duke Energy. Both have corporate headquarters in downtown Charlotte.
Duke Energy is a target of GreenPeace USA's Robert Gardner, who is critical of the company's environmental record. He says those protesting represent a diverse group of disaffected voters.
"What you see here are people who have been foreclosed on, people whose houses are at risk, people who have really been treated terribly for decades now, and this is something I think that people get," he said.
Pete Tridish hopes Americans support his message, directed at politicians on both sides of the political aisle, about curbing corporate campaign donations. "This election, there's going to be about $5 billion spent in this election campaign, and I've got a lot of concerns along with a lot of other people that the people that are contributing all that money are going to be the ones who get the results they want out of this election," he said.
Anti-war, pro-immigrant and pro-labor groups also joined the "March on Wall Street South," the largest protest event scheduled during the DNC.
Although the protesters' message was not consistent, Sheri Bailey hopes that by the time delegates leave the Democratic National Convention, they will understand the concerns of those suffering. "I think the message is extremely clear that this is America and everyone has the right to the "American Dream," she said.
An "American Dream" these protesters want restored by whoever occupies the White House after Inauguration Day in January.
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