Charlotte Braces For Democratic National Convention | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
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Charlotte Braces For Democratic National Convention

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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.

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