Pictured: Police officers blocking a city street in Uptown Charlotte during the 2012 Democratic National Convention. At least one officer is carrying a crowd-control weapon.

When Charlotte hosts the Republican National Convention (RNC) next August, North Carolina’s largest city will become the epicenter of not just a major political gathering, but monumental questions concerning civil liberties, free speech, policing, and public safety. From what military equipment, surveillance tools, or crowd-control devices the police will use, to which parts of the city will experience an increased police presence, to where and how peaceful protestors can exercise their First Amendment rights, there is a lot on the line for civil rights and civil liberties. 

We know that the decisions that Charlotte’s elected officials make on these issues in the months and weeks leading up to the convention will reverberate long after the 2020 RNC ends. When Charlotte hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012, for example, city leaders passed an “extraordinary event” ordinance that expanded the powers of police to limit constitutionally protected activities and search the bags of anyone traveling in a large section of the city. That ordinance remained on the books for five years after the DNC, and police used it to control crowds during events ranging from football games to the city’s LGBTQ Pride festival. 

For the 2020 RNC, Charlotte has received a $50 million federal grant for security-related purchases, and most, if not all, of these purchases will remain in the arsenal of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police for years to come. Police have so far not disclosed how they'll spend that grant, but we know that military and surveillance technology has been disproportionately used against communities of color and in low-income neighborhoods. New tools, such as facial recognition software, could soon be used to target Charlotte residents already monitored by surveillance cameras across the city. 

As the city’s elected leaders, Charlotte's mayor and members of the City Council have unparalleled authority to make decisions, set policy, and provide oversight to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on these issues. Throughout the next year, we will be working closely with local community groups and partners to advocate for the protection of civil liberties for everyone in Charlotte and for transparency in the leadup to the RNC. As part of holding officials accountable on these crucial questions, we are asking every candidate in the upcoming election for Charlotte City Council to state their positions on the city’s planning and policies for the RNC.  

City leaders must do everything in their power to ensure that people’s rights before, during, and after the RNC are protected without discriminatory policing or the curtailment of civil liberties. The work to hold them accountable to those values begins with this year’s City Council elections.

You can read the responses from each candidate below:

Mayor

City Council - At Large

City Council - District 1

City Council - District 2

City Council - District 3

City Council - District 4

  • Richmond V. Baker (No response)
  • Gabriel (Gabe) Cartagena (No response)
  • Renee Perkins Johnson (No response)
  • Charles Robinson (No response)
  • Charlene Henderson El (Read response)
  • Sean Thompson (Read response)
  • Brandon Pierce (Read response)

City Council - District 5

City Council - District 6

  • Gina Navarrete (No response)
  • Tariq Scott Bokhari (No response)

City Council - District 7

  • Ed Driggs (No response)
  • Victoria Nwasike (No response)

Note: The ACLU of North Carolina is a nonpartisan organization. We do not endorse or oppose candidates for elected office.

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