Charlotte City Council voted 6-5 to bring the 2020 Republican National Convention to the city, after a meeting that lasted over three hours.
The public comments saw over 100 people speak out both in favor and against. The comments were evenly split between the two sides, with the themes of economic impact, safety and free speech concerns, as well as the image that hosting the event would bring.
Las Vegas, the only other city in contention, dropped its bid, leaving Charlotte as the lone contender after Mayor Vi Lyles (below) pushed for the city to host the convention, which is expected to nominate President Donald Trump for reelection.
The two Republicans on the Council, members Tariq Bokhari and Ed Driggs, were joined by Democrats Julie Eiselt, Greg Phipps, James Mitchell, and Larken Egleston in voting in favor of bringing the convention to the city.
Voting against were Democratic Council members Justin Harlow, Dimple Ajmera, Braxton Winston, LaWana Mayfield, and Matt Newton.
“Your businesses, your money, has never reflected my interest,” said transgender activist Myka Johnson.
“I have no doubt that you will get the RNC here, because y’all believe in money over people,” Johnson (below) continued, citing the police shooting deaths of Jonathan Ferrell, and Keith Lamont Scott, as well as the state’s passing of HB2, the anti-LGBTQ law that came in response to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.
The death of Scott, and the aftermath, which included both peaceful protests and some acts of property destruction and violence, was a frequent topic at the meeting, with some speaking in opposition of the convention saying Charlotte cannot stand more turmoil.
The violent actions of white nationalists at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, where activist Heather Heyer was run over and killed, were also invoked on more than one occasion.
Activist Ash Williams warned the 2020 RNC “could be a thousand times worse than what we saw in Charlottesville,” and questioned the talk of inclusivity by Lyles as a reason to support hosting it.
“Are we really being asked to be inclusive of white supremacy here?” they asked. “And isn’t the problem that we’ve always been inclusive of white supremacy?”
Representatives from the hotel, taxi, and restaurant industries were among those who spoke in favor, arguing that the money brought in is essential to their businesses and employees.
Winston noted that there were far more business owners than there were workers represented at the meeting, and asked if that could be because it started at 2pm on a weekday, when most would be working.
Many speaking in favor noted Charlotte hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention and suggested it would show bias to not host a Republican National Convention, but those in opposition characterized that as a false equivalency.
Winston said he hopes the city one day hosts a Republican National Convention, just not the one in 2020.
Mayfield (below) quoted Trump’s violent rhetoric at campaign rallies, where he encouraged supporters to beat up protesters.
“There have been several times over these seven years where I have voted alongside my Republican colleagues if it made sense. This does not make sense for me,” she added. “I am still black, female, and gay. There is nothing about this administration that tells me that I am wanted in my own country.”
Still, some council members saw this move as a way forward.
“The polarization of our current political climate is toxic. It has caused many to retreat to their respective ideological corners,” said Egleston. “Many will say it’s naive to think we can mend fences and forge partnerships across the aisle at such a divisive moment in our country. But I would far prefer to pursue that goal than resign myself to the idea that those with whom I disagree are inherently evil and incapable of compromise.”
Lyles said bringing the RNC to Charlotte will show it is a city that respects all viewpoints, as well as noting the expected economic impact that could result from hosting the event.
Congress will allocate a $50 million security grant for the convention by March 31, 2020, or else Charlotte can terminate the agreement. If security costs exceed $50 million, as some, including some Council members, fear, the additional costs will be incurred by the local host committee, per the contract.
The full meeting can be viewed below.