Charlotte’s streets turn friendly for advocacy groups

Josie Lenwell, left, and Karen Boyer of Code Pink

Josie Lenwell, left, and Karen Boyer of Code Pink

The streets of Charlotte Monday were friendlier and more crowded than Sunday, as the city celebrated Labor Day and the Democratic National Convention with Carolina Fest.

Free music, including a set by North Carolina native James Taylor, fried chicken and barbecue were supplemented with advocacy groups and booths backing a range of progressive causes. Vendors hawked Obama themed items, from books, buttons and T-shirts, to paintings, sketches and small boxes with the president’s image containing two double-chocolate chip cookies.

Code Pink Women for Peace

All over Tryon Street — closed for the fest — hot pink stickers saying “Make Out Not War” were visible on shirts and blouses. Josie Lenwell of Taos, N.M., and Karen Boyer of Portland, Ore., in hot pink themselves, were handing them out, as they had done in Tampa last week. They represent Code Pink Women for Peace.

“Because of the war, we don’t have money for other things,” Boyer said. “We should bring our war funds home.” In addition, “we’re trying to end the war on women.”

David Harris, far right, explains National Democratic Jewish Council.

David Harris, far right, explains National Democratic Jewish Council.

National Democratic Jewish Council

Not far down the street, the National Jewish Democratic Council had parked its bus emblazoned with Obama’s picture, seeking to counter Republican claims that the president is not a true friend of Israel, as Mitt Romney and others have said.

“He has a stellar pro-Israel record,” said David Harris, president and CEO of the council. Obama has supported Israeli missile defense and worked for a global coalition against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, among others issues, he said.

Harris said American Jews are pro-choice, pro-marriage equality and strongly support government social programs, so o pry them away from Democrats, Republicans “talk about Israel and Iran.”

But he says it’s not working. “The president is doing better against Romney among American Jews today than he was doing against (John) McCain at this time” four years ago, Harris said, and Obama is doing better in polls among Jews than just a few months ago.

John Capozzi with D.C. statehood group.

John Capozzi with D.C. statehood group.

No Taxation Without Representation

Marylanders are long familiar with the District of Columbia’s campaign for statehood, and the slogan available on its license plate, “No Taxation Without Representation.”

A small band of supporters were seeking to educate the Carolina crowd about D.C.’s lack of representation in Congress. John Capozzi, who was a “shadow representative” for the state of New Columbia in the mid-1990s, said his small group was disappointed that Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s non-voting delegate to Congress, was not allowed to speak to the convention, as she had in past years. He was hoping they might find another speaker to bring up the topic.

Labor unions had several booths in this right-to-work state, where workers cannot be forced to join a union. Many union Democrats are unhappy about the selection of North Carolina to host the convention. There was also a large booth for marriage equality in a state that just passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, another sore point with progressive Democrats.

Authors of Don't Let the Republican Drive the Bus

Authors of Don’t Let the Republican Drive the Bus sign books.

Don’t let the Republican drive the bus

The men in the booth selling the faux children’s book, “Don’t Let the Republican Drive the Bus,” did not seem to be sore at any one, poking more fun than anger at what they portray as GOP self-centeredness. The authors, Erich Origen and Gan Golan, dressed as Uncle Sam and a chicken, were signing copies.

“I hate public transit,” says the book’s lead character, a vulture named Birdbrain. “Then again I hate anything with the word public in it. So can I drive the bus.”

“When Romney was called a ‘vulture capitalist,’ it confirmed we had chosen the right bird,” Origen says on the book’s website.

–Len Lazarick

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

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