Protesters gathered in uptown Charlotte Wednesday as Bank of America held its annual shareholders meeting, staging demonstrations that had much lower attendance and were much more subdued compared with last years meeting.
Maj. Jeff Estes, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, on Wednesday estimated that the event drew, at most, 40 protesters.
And thats generous, he said.
Its also substantially lower than the 600 protesters who police estimate were in Charlotte for last years shareholders meeting, during which six people were arrested and uptown streets were blocked. Estes said early Wednesday afternoon that no protesters had been arrested in connection with the meeting for the Charlotte-based bank.
Despite the low attendance, the city issued an extraordinary event declaration, affecting a roughly 72-block area, ahead of the meeting. The declarations ban people from bringing items that can be used as weapons into the declaration zone.
This years shareholders meeting, in the Charlotte Marriott City Center hotel, 100 W. Trade St., was scheduled for a 10 a.m. start. Earlier Wednesday, except for police officers and barricades stationed around the Marriott, it looked like a normal morning in uptown until about 8:30, when protesters began arriving.
Wednesdays protesting appeared to be isolated to a small group of people gathered by Polk Park, at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets and diagonally across from the banks headquarters.
Ryan Halas, Charlotte-area campaigner for Rainforest Action Network, who was part of the group, said RAN was expressing its concerns about Bank of Americas funding of the coal industry.
When asked Wednesday what she thought of the lower protester attendance for this years shareholders meeting, Amanda Starbuck, director of energy and finance for the Rainforest group, pointed instead to the number of people in the shareholders meeting.
There were very few seats inside the room, so Id say, just like last year, the shareholders meeting was full, said Starbuck, who traveled from San Francisco to attend the meeting. Starbuck also was at last years shareholders meeting.
After Wednesdays meeting, which ran for more than two hours, ended, the protesters at Polk Park appeared to have increased to perhaps 30.
Estes, the CMPD major, said police were prepared for hundreds of people to descend on uptown.
He said last years shareholders meeting was held during the waning days of the Occupy movement, so there was some Occupy people kind of mixed in.
Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts