"Banks got bailed out. We got sold out," they chanted while waving signs.
Police estimated there were about 800 mostly orderly, if boisterous, protesters during the 2-hour march in 92-degree heat, while organizers pegged the total at more than 1,000, The Charlotte Observer said. Both numbers were well shy of the 2,000 to 10,000 police had anticipated, the newspaper said.
Two people were arrested, one for having a concealed knife and another for disorderly conduct, police said.
The demonstrators were members of more than 90 local and national groups, the Observer said. Mortgage foreclosures, high-interest student loans and environmental issues were among their foremost concerns.
The protesters marched past the headquarters of Duke Energy, the nation's biggest electric utility. Security was evident, with several hundred police officers lining the sidewalks near the Bank of America headquarters.
"At this point, we are literally foreclosing on our neighbors every day with our tax dollars," Detroit foreclosure attorney Vanessa Fluker said. "I have friends fighting in the war in Afghanistan and Bank of America is trying to throw them out on the street every day."
Speakers called for an end to foreclosures, and for bankers to stand trial for their role in the financial crisis.
Wells Fargo, which has a major corporate presence in Charlotte, says its foreclosures and delinquency rates are below the industry average.
"Our priority is to prevent as many foreclosures as possible by working with financially distressed customers -- and we want them to know we are there to help them," the bank said in a statement.
Beth Henry, 58, a former Charlotte corporate lawyer, took aim at Duke Energy's environmental record.
"To leave our children a ruined world, all we need to do is let companies like Duke Energy keep doing what they're doing," said Henry, accusing the utility of choosing profits over the environment.
Duke said in a statement it had shut down nearly two dozen coal-fired power units in the past two years, with more to come. Duke also said it has initiated 13 solar-power projects and buys more solar electricity from other producers.
Charlotte City Council Member Andy Dulin, who wore a Romney/Ryan hat, called it "fun, a heck of a parade."
"This is the American process taking place and I made sure I came down to watch," he said.
Protests are expected to continue through the week, with the convention officially beginning Tuesday.