Monday, September 3, 2012

A rookie protester from Charlotte gets some satisfaction

Eric May, who painted himself green to resemble the Incredible Hulk, holds up the sign he carried during Sunday's protest march in Charlotte.

Here's my column from Monday's newspaper on a rookie protester from Charlotte:

Eric May woke up on Sunday, painted himself Incredible Hulk green in 20 minutes, threw on an anti-Obama T-shirt he had bought online, grabbed his “I’m Mad as Hell” sign, and got his wife to drop him off at his first-ever protest march.
May, 41, is a handyman who has lived in Charlotte for the past 15 years. He doesn’t strike you as someone who’s incredibly mad when you talk to him.
“I don’t have anger issues,” he said. “I’m the easiest-going person you’ll ever meet. This just represents how I feel politically. I think it gets the point across.”
There were about 800 protesters Sunday who first gathered in Frazier Park and then marched through uptown Charlotte. This was a come-one, come-all sort of protest – you could protest anything you wanted. Hundreds did. There were immigration protesters and war protesters. There was a protest rapper. There was a group that wanted to save America’s postal service.
But the majority of protesters had a financial bent, and May was one of those. He doesn’t believe banks should get government bailouts, but he doesn’t think individuals should get them, either. So he’s not exactly in agreement with either the 1 percent or the 99 percent.
“I would characterize myself as independent to libertarian,” May said. “I just believe in small government, low taxes and self-responsibility. I work hard. I’ve never been bailed out. I’ve never been given anything. I pay a lot of taxes. I feel like people need to have some self-responsibility, and I think that would go a long way to make us a stronger country.”
As for painting himself green, it wasn’t the first time.
In the spring, May and several buddies dressed up as “The Avengers” and ran the 5K “Warrior Dash” through mud and other obstacles at Rural Hill in Huntersville. “I was the Incredible Hulk,” May said. “That got a lot of attention. So when I was coming up with sign slogans and throwing around things to do with being mad, one of my buddies said go as the Hulk and be mad as hell. That’s how that came about.”
May believes in less government, not more. He has thought about running for political office but hasn’t yet. He votes regularly. He said he voted for Libertarian Bob Barr in the 2008 presidential election and will vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson this time around.
May got to Frazier Park – a park not far from the Carolina Panthers’ practice fields where he had been a couple of times before to walk his dog – a little after noon Sunday. Unlike many protesters, he had no official group to join, and he didn’t find anyone else he thought who believed exactly what he did.
“I was a little bit of a lone wolf out there,” May said.
When the march began at 1 p.m., the protesters marched slowly in a line that stretched for about one city block. May found a spot near the back, with some Occupy Charlotte protesters behind him and some immigration protesters in front of him. He marched most of the route, listening to the speeches and marveling at the high number of police who lined the way.
“It seemed like it was organized well,” May said. “I thought the speakers were pretty good, although I didn’t agree with some of what they were saying. I just felt like I had to do this once. I’m not sure whether I’ll do it again or not.”
By 4 p.m., May was back home in south Charlotte. He was starting to remove the green paint and get back to his regular life. A wife. A dog. A job.
He had held up a sign saying he was mad as hell for more than three hours. But all in all, when I talked to him once more after the protest, he sounded satisfied.