September 3, 2012
|Police patrol the Uptown area before the start of the Democratic National Convention September 1, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)|
As the Democratic National Convention nears, people in Charlotte could face arrest for carrying water bottles, socks, markers, and other seemingly unthreatening items, triggering worries over free speech violations and warrantless searches.
Guests and protesters of the DNC have expressed concern that law enforcement could violate their constitutional rights in the name of public safety. A new city rule for “extraordinary events” also bans the possession of handbags, backpacks, soda cans, drink coolers, scarves, bike helmets, baby strollers, and non-service animals.
The rules are vague, causing concern among citizens who don’t know if the items they carry will land them in jail, the Associated Press reported. A “container or object of sufficient weight to be used as a projectile” can be interpreted in many ways to include objects like digital cameras.
Not included in the list of banned items, however, are handguns and rifles. The state’s laws grant anyone the right to carry firearms in public places. The firearms can only be concealed with a license.
Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said he worries the new measures could violate the Constitution – especially the part that bans bags “carried with the intent to conceal weapons or other prohibited items.”
This “intent,” which is up to the discretion of police officers, can lead to warrantless searches. If police assume a person has the “intent to conceal” prohibited items – which include water bottles and hair spray – and the carrier refuses to comply with police orders to search the bag, then the officer could ostensibly arrest the person.