CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Protesters blocked an intersection near the Democratic National Convention for about two hours today, attracting hundreds of police officers, in the tensest demonstration yet outside either political convention.
Officers took two protesters away in handcuffs, other demonstrators got into shouting matches with delegates and their standoff blocked a route used by delegate buses. Still, no violence or significant damage occurred even after the protesters were eventually allowed to march into the heart of Charlotte's central business district.
The group of about 50 protesters disrupted traffic by sitting down in the middle of an intersection about five blocks from where the convention is being held. They were surrounded by officers, some in riot gear, and warned to disperse or be arrested.
The impasse was broken after two protesters spoke to the Charlotte police chief and said they were told they could continue to walk as a group on public sidewalks. They then continued past the city's convention center, where some delegates had been attending peripheral activities. Official convention events start this evening at the city's basketball arena.
The demonstrators' stated goal had been to talk to convention delegates, and the two groups came close to each other at the edge of the convention center. Some were seen shouting at each other through a line of police officers who were separating them with mountain bikes.
At one point, a group of delegates shouted "Four more years!" The marchers responded: "No more years!"
As the unauthorized march continued, protesters turned onto the main thoroughfare of N. Tryon St. toward the headquarters of Bank of America. Still, the path police were allowing them to take kept them at least two blocks away from Time Warner Arena, which is serving as the convention hall this week.
After the group marched all the way to the other end of the downtown, they stopped on a street corner and one of the protesters called out for what to do next. Everyone raised their hand to vote to return to the park where they'd been gathering.
They then headed back the way they came, no longer chanting loudly.
The demonstration began around 12:30 p.m. when 200 protesters began marching outside of designated routes and without the necessary permit. They had only made it a few blocks from their home base at the park when hundreds of officers began arriving.
Officers made a barricade of mountain bikes to stop the march, surrounded the group and attempted to corral them into an area designated for protester speeches.
A protester who tried to cross the barricade was put in handcuffs by officers. The protester had identified himself to a reporter as a veteran named John Penley earlier in the march.
About 50 protesters sat in the intersection and was surrounded by officers. After a while, protesters unfurled and set up a domed tent in the middle of the street.
The intersection was along a route used by buses ferrying delegates around the city's central business district. At least some buses had been running and were forced to stop.
A second protester was put in handcuffs after the group left the intersection. It wasn't immediately clear why police stopped the man, who was wearing a mask and combat boots
Oklahoma delegate David Ratcliff, 43, said he'd been waiting for a bus but found out that it wasn't running so he walked over to see what was happening. Ratcliff said that while he doesn't agree with some protesters' views on Obama, he was encouraged to see people expressing themselves.
The group of protesters was led by Penley and about a half-dozen other veterans. Many of the others appeared to be part of the Occupy movement Penley, of Asheville, said he and the other former service members wanted to raise awareness of veterans issues and talk to delegates.
Some were also protesting the incarceration of a soldier accused of giving classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning, chanting: "Free Bradley, arrest Barack."