Cost is adding up for Occupy Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -- No one can place a value on free speech. However, there is an associated cost to the Occupy Charlotte movement.

Police must staff the protest to maintain crowd control and order, as they do the Fourth of July, and festivals like Speed Street.

Just a few feet from where protestors are camped out along Trade Street, there's a police patrol car. A watch tower is also nearby.

Captain Jeff Estes with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department says the total cost thus far for the department is $92,000.

The amount doesn't come close to the security price tag for Speed Street, which lasts a few night and the Fourth of July. However, the protest is a protracted event with no end in sight.

Protestors have been camping out for three weeks on the grounds of the old city hall.

Cities like Baltimore and Atlanta have said enough. They're using little known city ordinances to shut down the movement.

In Charlotte, there are several ordinances that deal with picketing, protests, sleeping in public parks and camping. However, the old city hall is exempt from those rules because it's designated as a forum for free speech.

"As far as I know, that's the only public forum space that does not impact other people's rights of travel and passage," said Estes.

And there's no timeline on exercising free speech. Police will stay as long as the protestors stay.

A member of City Council could propose a new ordinance, but at the time this story was written, no one had volunteered.

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