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Charlotte Prepares for Protesters

This article originally appeared in the CQ Weekly 2012 Democratic Convention Guide.

All manner of protesters are gathering in Charlotte for the convention this week, so many that local officials had to hold a lottery to determine which groups would get prime protest spots. The city has also brought in thousands of police officers from other jurisdictions to make sure everyone stays in line.

Charlotte also is using a federal security grant to buy a $10 million liability insurance policy in case protesters are mistreated by police.

Robert Hagemann, Charlotte’s city attorney, told local television station WBTV last month that the insurance policy would cover the city against any complaints related to law enforcement, ranging from excessive force to false arrest, “anything that people would typically claim police have done wrong.”

The city is wary because of what happened to Denver after the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Police there arrested 96 people who were either participating in or observing a protest march in the downtown area. The protesters were surrounded by police and arrested. The American Civil Liberties Union brought suit, arguing that the police had never warned the marchers to disperse and had arrested people who were walking on the sidewalk as well as those blocking traffic.

Last year, Denver settled the case for $200,000. To avoid a repeat, Charlotte officials have reached out to the ACLU to try to ensure that protests can proceed without disrupting the convention or the city. Last month, Charlotte and the ACLU held a free online seminar for protesters to make sure they are aware of their rights and obligations.

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