Charlotte working with ACLU to make sure DNC protests run smoothly

by: Tenikka Smith Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

The Charlotte city attorney is working with the ACLU of North Carolina to make sure protests run smoothly doing the Democratic National Convention in September.

During the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo., the ACLU said police arrested 96 people.  The ACLU sued on the basis that the arrests were without probable cause and violated First and Fourth amendment rights.  

The ACLU won, and Denver had to pay $200,000 and make changes in police policy and training.

“Our goal is to respect legitimate, peaceful First Amendment activity,” Charlotte city attorney Bob Hagemann said.

In an effort to prevent a similar situation from happening in Charlotte, Hagemann said his office reached out to the ACLU as soon as Charlotte was named as the host city for the DNC 2012.

“They provided valuable input that we've listened to and taken into account,” Hagemann said. “Have we agreed on everything?  No. Do we have a good relationship and common interest in respecting and protecting First Amendment rights? Yes."

They are working together and plan to host a free online seminar on Monday to break down the rights of demonstrators during the convention.  The ACLU of North Carolina plans to have staff on the ground monitoring the protests.

The group’s legal director, Chris Brook, told Eyewitness News, "We're going to be there to make sure we can be informed or respond appropriately if things on the ground aren't compatible with First Amendment rights."

In the meantime, Hagemann said CMPD officers are getting training on how to keep the peace and protect constitutional rights, while keeping safety a top priority. 

"There is an element of society that is not coming here to protest peacefully, and police and law enforcement agencies have to take those threats seriously," Hagemann said.

The city of Charlotte does have an insurance policy in place, in case there are any lawsuits stemming from the convention.