Protests and demonstrations have changed a great deal over the decades. For example, I did not see any anti-war protesters. This is a far cry from the 1960’s when many people were outraged by the unilateral military intervention in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. There was a pro-peace gathering in Charlotte seemingly more interested in coordinating colors than inspiring outrage. There were religious protesters condemning Democrats for their pro-choice, pro-gay marriage planks in their platform. But they were few and obviously on the fringe of even their own movement. Most people ignored them and a few actually argued with them, thereby encouraging the protesters to dig in their heels. Then there was another group. About 100 protesters from the Occupy movement were in Charlotte protesting the too-cozy alliance between Wall Street and Washington.
Wednesday night, after Bill Clinton’s speech, I was too wired up to go to bed and too tired to go to one of many parties. I went downstairs to a cigar bar called “Cutters”. I enjoyed a Romeo and Julieta cigar with my vodka and tonic and started a conversation at the bar. The man next to me was Regional Director from the Justice Department. He had been in Tampa the previous week for the RNC convention. He was in Tampa and Charlotte for the conventions, keeping tabs on protesters. In fact, he was returning to Tampa next week for follow-up meetings. I asked him what posed the greatest threat at both conventions. “The anarchists,” he replied. Wanting clarification, I asked him if he meant the Occupy protesters. “No. The anarchists,” was all he said.
Thursday night was supposed to be a big night for Obama. And it was. But there were other moments that were stronger. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm lit up the arena with her speech and I thought she was the best speaker of the night. Joe Biden, more noted for his gaffes than his speaking prowess, used a softer delivery to draw in his audience. Smart move! He knows he cannot compete with Clinton or Obama. Instead he took a different tact was was extremely effective.
We had heard rumors that Gabrielle Giffords was going to give the Pledge of Allegiance and the Pledge was conspicuously absent in the beginning of the evening when it is typically executed. When Gabrielle Giffords, escorted by Florida’s own Congressional Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, took the stage to give the Pledge of Allegiance there wasn’t a dry eye in Time Warner Arena. Later that evening, when I was leaving the arena with Largo Democratic President Rich Piper and Heidi Sanchez, Gabrielle Giffords went right by us in a wheelchair pushed by her astronaut husband Mark Kelly. I had my camera ready, but there are times when people need their privacy.