'Occupy Charlotte' enters day 3 with 28 campers at Old City Hall

Published: Oct. 4, 2011 at 8:29 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 7, 2011 at 2:43 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Hundreds of people converged on uptown for "Occupy Charlotte" this weekend and now members plan to live in tents uptown as part of their protest.

Demonstrators met at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Old City Hall and marched to the Bank of America headquarters for the official start of the protest.

The group camped out overnight into Sunday, and will do the same into Monday morning - marking the beginning of day 3 of the protest. By Monday morning there were 28 people at the campsite, WBT Radio reported.

The group is using Twitter and the hash tag OccupyCLT to send messages and relay information. Members have stayed busy answering questions from curious people around Charlotte, including the oft-asked question "why are you protesting on the weekend, when the banks are closed?". The answer? Many of the protesters have jobs and weren't available for a kickoff event during the week.

"Occupy Charlotte" is part of a larger group of protests that began with Occupy Wall Street in New York City and spread nationwide.

Michael Flaherty drove an hour to take part in the protest. He protested the Vietnam War when he was teenager and calls the salary disparities in America "egregious."

"Like all revolutions and all major changes..the Civil Rights movement, the Anti-War movement..it comes from the people not from the top," Flaherty said.

The group's message has been complicated and unclear, but organizers tried on Monday to clarify that there are not official list of 12 demands, which some media have said is the list. (Click here to view the statement about the actual goals.)

Protestor Laura Weber says she's been supporting the movement financially and on Facebook with her friends. "I'm against corporate greed and I want us to have a real democracy," Weber said.

On Monday morning, one of the 28 campers told WBT Radio that he was there protesting "everything" because of "all the things that are going on right now."

Local spokesperson Tom Shope says the protests are mainly about what he says is the cozy relationship between government and big business.

"It's a nationwide thing and I think a lot of people are just at a point of fed up," he said.

On Occupy Charlotte's Facebook page it says: "The banking giant Bank of America has a hard presence in our region, and their frauds and abuses have become a symbol of what is wrong with our economy and our financial system. We plan to pit our peaceful protest and civil disobedience against them."

But Shope says from his point of view, the protest isn't really about the Charlotte-based banking giant.

"B of A is just a small symptom of the problem," he said. "It's not the focus."

Shope says protestors will be camping out not at the bank's headquarters, but at the old City Hall building several blocks away for as long as they can.

"I think it's just going to give us a really good presence in town, and give us a good place to protest other places," Shope said.

Across the country, many of the various "Occupy Wall Street" protests have been peaceful, but some, like the ones in New York City, have involved clashes between police and protestors and also arrests.

The local protestors gathered for the first time last weekend to plan and organize, and ended up marching to B of A in an impromptu rush.

WBTV talked to organizers and CMPD Friday, ahead of the protest. Shope said Occupy Charlotte and CMPD worked together to make sure Charlotte didn't see the violence and other issues that have happened in other cities.

On Saturday, officers were on bikes, foot and in cars patrolling the area. The protests were passionate but peaceful. CMPD did not report any arrests.

Captain Jeff Estes says the protestors have a right to protest on public property. He also said that there's nothing prohibiting the group from spending the night on the Old City Hall front lawn.

Bank of America released this statement ahead of the protests saying, "The well being of customers and employees is our number one concern," and that steps were taken to ensure their safety. But employees were not at work during the protest.

A spokesperson would not comment on Occupy Charlotte's criticisms of the bank.

The group says they've voted to have a general assembly every night at 7 p.m. and they have plans to march on the rate hike hearing at the Duke Energy building Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.