CHARLOTTE — Jamie Bellah has always been really quiet.
Ive never really spoken up or really stood for anything, said Bellah, a recent Winthrop University graduate who decided to raise her voice with hundreds of others at the March on Wall Street South in Charlotte on Sunday.
Ive kind of just done what Ive been told to do, and Ive never really questioned it.
Now, facing a tough job market with only seasonal work lined up, Bellah, living in Clover with a relative, is starting to ask questions about everything shes been told, especially as applications at retail big-box stores yield no call-backs for interviews.
As the crowd gathered in a panoply of colorful protest banners and props, causes and rallying cries in Frazier Park before the march, Bellah was glad to be participating.
It feels good to be able to stand up and have a voice, she said.
In sweltering heat, volunteer medics roamed the park; others handed out free water. Fliers for events and workshops circulated, and speakers from all over the country took to the microphone.
Banks, corporations, pollution, abortion, military drone strikes, the treatment of undocumented immigrants and workers rights were among the topics.
Dozens of groups from across the country came, including many Occupy participants from Charlotte and other cities.
Organizer Ben Carroll said later Sunday that the event went off without any incidents. Protesters concluded the march in Frazier Park.
We were able to pull a very successful demonstration, Carroll said. We were able to make our message clear to the banks and corporations and to the politicians in both parties.
Two people were arrested during the parade, according to a release from Charlotte-Mecklenburg authorities late Sunday. Anna Marie Wright, 23, was arrested for carrying a concealed knife and wearing a mask.
Chris Wright Stevens, 32, was arrested for disorderly conduct, assault on a government official and resisting arrest.
Around 1,000 or twice that, by organizers estimates participated in the march, flanked on both sides by lines of police officers on foot, continuous fencing and officers on bicycles.
A cameras eye was unavoidable with media, protesters and police all recording.
The march halted three times, twice for speeches in front of the Charlotte headquarters of Bank of America and Duke Energy, and once to refill water bottles.
It was Winthrop junior Cedric Streaters first protest.
I like how everyones coming together, he said. It shows real unity.
Streater said he didnt necessarily agree with all the messages on display, but he did think they were united on one point: taking care of people.
A sophomore at Winthrop, Brandon David said he liked the energy in the crowd, something he would take away from the demonstration. He came primarily to speak out about womens and workers rights, and funding education over war.
David said hes been moved to activism because his grandmother, who immigrated from Colombia, worked in a mill and now is retired, has pretty much nothing to her name.
His mother, who served a stint in the military, also is struggling to provide for his siblings, he said.
Hes concerned about a lack of quality jobs that provide adequate benefits and believes some corporations could pay more.
I hope it inspires people to get out and take politics into their own hands, said Judson Abraham, a Winthrop University senior who was sweat-soaked, sunburned and still shouting nearly three hours into the march.
Voting for someone with a D beside his name doesnt work.
We need an independent, grass-roots-driven, great social movement rooted in civil society not in these giant quasi-corporate political associations like the Republicans and Democrats, he said. We need to end the culture that not only ridicules protesters but makes it difficult for them to work and ... challenge the power.
Abraham said the energy in the crowd was what he expected.
Theres a sense of solidarity when you march and you chant with all these people, some of them you know, some of them are total strangers. But were all together for the 99 percent, and that, I think, is really moving, and it can really shake people out of a sense of cynicism and disempowerment that we so often have.
Jamie Self 803-329-4062