Charlotte officials didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for Walkupy, a group of Occupy Wall Street protesters currently walking from New York City to Atlanta, visiting Occupy sites along the way.
After the group arrived here Saturday night, Bank of America security guards nabbed two of them for reportedly demonstrating on private property. Now, the Walkupiers are stuck in the Queen City for a couple of days, awaiting the release of friends from the clink. The two arrested are being held on $500 bond, and one of the members of the group is saying the whole deal was one big misunderstanding.
According to Grant Baldwin, a Charlotte photographer (and sometime CL contributor) who was on the scene, the Walkupy members walked up North Tryon Street and stood on the corner of 5th Street waiting for members of Occupy Charlotte to meet them. Then, Baldwin explained, the group walked toward Bank of America's headquarters purportedly to look at murals through the building's glass facade at the art inside. At that time, said Baldwin, bank security officials and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police approached the group.
As seen in the video below, one of the police officers said, "Everybody listen up: Protesters demonstrating on private property will not be allowed."
"But we weren't demonstrating, we were just looking at the pictures," responded Jason Dow, the member of Occupy Charlotte who shot the video below.
An unidentified Bank of America security guard then said, "But you're still banned from the property. Especially you."
Dow responded, "Why me?" and, "I wasn't aware I was banned."
The most interesting part of the video is that the police gave the occupiers an opportunity to leave without being arrested. And, at time stamp 1:18, a Bank of America security guard can be seen snatching a camera phone an occupier was using to Ustream the Walkupy visit and subsequent arrests. She was off the bank's property when this occurred.
Also watch as Garth Kiser, 33, and Sarah Handyside, 29, are arrested for "second-degree trespassing." Apparently, the two chose to be arrested, defying the police and security guards' orders when they crossed onto Bank of America's property, which looks like a public sidewalk.
Creative Loafing has reached out to both the CMPD and Bank of America to verify the events and find out more about occupiers' official banning from bank property. When either responds, CL will provide updates.
This isn't the first time Walkupiers have been arrested in North Carolina. Six were arrested in Raleigh — including the two arrested in Charlotte Saturday — for "failure to disperse on command," according to an NBC affiliate.
We caught up with the Walkupiers Monday afternoon. When asked if they had been attempting to provoke the bank's security guards, Dylan Bozlee, from Hilo, HI, said, "We were not wearing our protester hats at that moment. We were just civilians going to look at murals." He agreed with Baldwin's account of the events.
Bozlee also said he returned to Bank of America on Sunday and asked a security guard if he could cross the property line to get a better view of the artwork. This time, he said, the security guard said Bozlee could enter the building. Bozlee said he believes his friends' arrests were a big misunderstanding on both sides and that everyone involved could have handled the situation "in a more harmonious way."Image credit: Twitter.com/walkupy
UPDATE: Several Walkupiers spoke up at the city council meeting Monday night in opposition to the city's proposed DNC ordinances. One Occupy Charlotte supporter, Michael Zytkow, was arrested during the meeting for "disrupting a public meeting" when he refused to stop speaking after his allotted three minutes to do so ended. Another Occupy Charlotte supporter, Scottie Wingfield, was also escorted out of the meeting, though not arrested, after repeatedly interrupting the meeting. Read and watch more from WCNC.