CHARLOTTE — Eighty-degree heat and 96 percent humidity could not stop both the public and political masses from descending on downtown Charlotte as the Democratic National Convention kicked off its first official day of business Tuesday.
Most prominent on the DNC’s campus were the demonstrations of which most were centered around social issues, particularly abortion and marriage equality. A group of Planned Parenthood representatives coordinated a rally outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame Tuesday afternoon to support the coverage of birth control under the Affordable Care Act. Their campaign played on President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes, we can,” by incorporating a round birth control dispenser into the 2012 logo and underscoring the image with the slogan, “Yes, we plan.”
Less organized though equally as conspicuous were different sets of anti-abortion advocates protesting outside of the Charlotte Convention Center. The protesters—all men—held signs saying that the DNC “Destroys Unborn Children.” The protestors also displayed excerpts from the New Testament and spoke through megaphone, damning DNC attendees and abortion rights advocates as sinners.
A small group of young people responded by dancing and playing music in hopes of drowning out the anti-abortion protesters by repeating: “Ask me about my beliefs, ask me about my beliefs, and I’ll tell you about my beliefs.”
Even as convention-goers dodged protesters, they stumbled across a number of street vendors sporting more lighthearted pins, shirts and posters supporting Obama. Fan favorites included pins reading “Hipsters for Obama,” “Once you vote black, you never go back” and “Bartenders for Obama.”
Official convention proceedings began with a call to order by U.S. Rep. Debbie Schultz (D-FL), chair of the Democratic National Committee. Other highlights of the evening included a comedic speech on voter education by Kal Penn, the actor and former associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, keynote address by San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and closing remarks by first lady Michelle Obama.
Cultural and interest groups caucused Monday and Tuesday, including the Hispanic Caucus, the African American Caucus and Ethnic Council, as well as the Women’s Caucus and Youth Council.