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What You Can't Bring to Downtown Charlotte -- PICTURES What You Can't Bring to Downtown Charlotte -- PICTURES

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Conventions 2012 / CONVENTIONS 2012

What You Can't Bring to Downtown Charlotte -- PICTURES

photo of Cory Bennett
September 4, 2012

“No” seems to be the popular word of the Republican and Democratic conventions. Not just with politicians, but among the omnipresent security guarding the convention entrances.

There are the obvious no's: no firearms, no radiological materials, no knives, no fireworks, no razorblades, no needles.

There are the surprising no's: no fruit, no baseballs or softballs, no sticks, no signs, no flashlights, no Frisbees, no whistles, no “inflated balls of any kind,” no cameras with lenses over 75mm, no unopened envelopes.

There’s the humorous no: no “chairs of any kind.” (It seems Invisible Obama will not be attending his own convention.)

And then there’s the potentially illegal no outside the convention: no “container or object of sufficient weight to be used as a projectile" is allowed within the central business district of Charlotte, the Democratic convention’s host city.

City laws that went into effect on Saturday dictate that during “extraordinary events,” an extra laundry list of items become illegal within a more than 100-square-block district of downtown Charlotte. Potentially, any nongovernment employee carrying a backpack, handbag, water bottle, bike helmet, baby stroller, or non-service pet is subject to arrest and possibly jail.

And the vague wording of “sufficient weight to be used as a projectile” essentially leaves the completion of the banned-items list up to the opinion of the 5,150-person security force, mostly brought in from surrounding cities for the convention. 

Enforcement, to this point, has not been exacting or stringent. Early convention protesters with coolers filled with bottled water have been left unperturbed by police, according to news reports.

Indeed, the city ordinances dictate that only containers or bags "carried with the intent to conceal weapons or other prohibited items" are subject to search. But it’s the method of uncovering this intent that has Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, uncomfortable.

No person has to submit to a bag search if requested by an officer, he told CBS News. But a refusal leaves the officer with a choice: free the person, or arrest them. And the decision on whom to press for searches could result in unconstitutional profiling, Brook said.

So if you are planning to head to downtown Charlotte, stay alert and pack light.

Demonstrators move toward downtown Charlotte during a protest march on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012. The protesters can get away with that bullhorn on the streets, but it would not be allowed inside the Democratic convention center.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Demonstrators occupy Marshall Park in advance of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Saturday. With Charlotte city ordinances in effect for "extraordinary events," the backpack the protester is resting his head on, and the water bottle near his shoulder, technically could make him subject to an arrest.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Members of the Vermont Democratic Party take pictures on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Sunday. That camera being used is fine, but if the lens exceeds 75mm, it could be subject to confiscation.(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)


Actor Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty chair while addressing delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Aug. 30. The empty chair, or "Invisible Obama," would get turned away at the entrance to the Democratic convention.(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Actor Mark Ruffalo holds a bottle of well water from Dimock, Pa., during a New Yorkers Against Fracking rally at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on May 15, 2012. Protesters in Charlotte at the Democratic convention could be subject to arrest for carrying water bottles outside of the Democratic convention center.(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

A demonstrator known only as "the Captain" is detained by police during an unscheduled protest march on Tuesday in Charlotte. The ACLU and protesters have charged that certain Charlotte city ordinances are intended to inhibit free speech and the right to assemble.(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)


An Occupy demonstrator tangles with a police officer during an unscheduled protest march on Tuesday in Charlotte. Those bike helmets are OK for police officers, but could make a member of the public subject to arrest in downtown Charlotte.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Puerto Rico delegate Zoraida Fonelledas holds her iPhone at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Aug. 30. An iPhone falls in the category of a "projectile" and could make its carrier subject to arrest in downtown Charlotte during the Democratic convention.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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