APD Chief: department takes employee’s Facebook comments on Occupy Asheville “very seriously”

Asheville Police Department Interim Chief Wade Wood has released a statement saying that his department takes Facebook comments made by Lynn Fraser, a forensic technician employed by the APD, “very seriously.” Fraser called Occupy Asheville protesters “dirtasses” and said they needed “a hug … around the neck… with a rope.” Melissa Williams, the city’s public information and social media specialist, who commented on Fraser’s status, has offered her apologies.

“The Facebook comments posted on the Mountain Xpress website have been brought to the city’s and my attention,” Wood’s statement reads. “We take this situation very seriously and we are looking into the matter. … The police department and I believe all people should be treated with respect and we hope the comments of an individual would not impede the department’s ability to continue the respectful and non-confrontational partnership the city has had with Occupy Asheville participants,” Wood continues. “We will continue to work with this and other groups to enable their right to legal expressions of free speech.”

Fraser’s comments, in a public Facebook post, called the protesters “dirtasses” and said they shouldn’t complain about being filmed by police. Williams weighed in with “‘dirtasses.’ LMAO” and later posted a follow-up comment, saying, “I know you feel at the end of your rope, but it’s all going to be OK. Perspective, prayer … all that helps. Enjoy your day off and count your many blessings, Lynn!”

Williams has released a statement offering her apologies.

“My intent wasn’t to offend anyone and I apologize,” she writes. “I was attempting to highlight something I thought was exaggerated and silly. However, in my role with the city I realize it is inappropriate to joke about sensitive issues. I just wanted her to put her stress into perspective and see that we are actually blessed—- and that we have more to be thankful for than we tend to recognize when times are difficult.”

Williams, a friend of Fraser’s, tells Xpress that she wasn’t meaning to endorse Fraser’s “dirtasses” comment.

“I put the word in quotes because it was a silly word, a word I’d never heard, I thought it was exaggerated, kind of an exaggerated perspective on what’s been going on,” Williams said. “I was more laughing at the word and hoped it highlighted the silliness of that word and her use. I wanted her to take a moment and put everything in perspective and not let her stress define her reaction.”

Fraser has since removed all public statuses from her Facebook page. However, blogger Jason Bugg uncovered a post from yesterday where Fraser also designates Occupy Asheville as a group that “just need a hug … around the neck… with a rope.”

Fraser was among APD personnel filming Occupy Asheville protesters during a joint march with the Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference yesterday. Legally, police can film public actions, just as citizens can record police activities.

A statement from Occupy Asheville asserts that Fraser’s remarks “show an insular culture among law enforcement that leads to stereotyping, profiling, abuse and false arrest of those in our community committed to reimagining our social, economic, and political structures. We believe that the heavy handed tactics of the APD, specifically recording our public meetings, singling out participants for arrest after the fact, and disruption reveal the actual attitude of authorities towards constitutionally protected assembly, speech and community organizing.”

To date, Asheville police have not deployed forceful methods against Occupy protesters, as has been done in Oakland, Calif. After early civil disobedience actions at the Merrill-Lynch building and Pack Square Park, protesters praised the conduct of the APD.

However, Occupy Asheville has condemned more recent APD actions, including the arrest of 24 during a Nov. 2 protest at the Vance Monument. Over the weekend, the APD arrested seven Occupy Asheville participants, alleging they’d broken the law during the Nov. 2 march, and claimed police would continue to review videotape of the protests, with the possibility of more arrests to come.

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25 thoughts on “APD Chief: department takes employee’s Facebook comments on Occupy Asheville “very seriously”

  1. Lamont Cranston

    I guess Ms. Lynn Fraser has not figured out that she too is part of the 99% just like the rest of us all. I wonder what it will take?

  2. weebleswobble

    Too little too late. You cant wash away the threat of lynchings as a joke and expect everything to be okay.

    The APD is such an insular, “good ‘ol boys club” that no one should expect anything to come of this from the inside, but as Asheville citizens we should add up all of the offenses which have been committed against us, Bobby Medford, all of the missing evidence room drugs, guns and money, abuse of power, the flagrant disregard to our constitutional rights, and threats of violence against those they are sworn to defend and protect.

    At some point it should be recognized that the police are in place to protect capital and the owning class… not us. They may be part of the 99%, but they are the part who actively work to keep the rest in line and the cleptocracy running smoothly.

    So lets get ‘em out of our city. one at a tyme if necessary. start with Fraser and move up the chain from there.

  3. mtndow

    re: APD vs OAVL & “The Internet” vs Ron Moore DA Bunco Cnty NC.
    Jeff and Jason, the line between yellow and journal ism is exceeding fine. Advise link all as the same and get me the beef. Innocent until proven guilty. MaskedGuilt@Anonymous.prov

  4. Rob

    This is not enough. An officer who can blithely make threatening comments should not be on the force.

    This “apology” is just her way of desperately trying to control the damage she has done to herself.

    I beg the APD, do NOT let her get away with this. Do NOT simply slap her on the wrist and tell her not to do it again. This is a serious matter with possible criminal charges.

    At the VERY least, she should be released from service.

  5. Barry Summers

    As someone who has been grabbed by the APD in a pre-determined suppression of civil disobedience, I can tell you this is just one minor public surfacing of a mindset that exists within our Police Dept.

    On the day that the war in Iraq started in 2003, around thirty of us non-violent protesters were yanked off the street, thrown into paddy wagons, and charged with resisting arrest (two years in prison). The County guards who processed us told us openly that they were warned by the APD in the morning to expect around thirty arrests later in the day, at a time that the APD couldn’t have known what would happen later. No violence or serious misconduct occurred on the part of protesters, but the APD apparently wanted to send a message nonetheless, and was prepared beforehand to let people know that free expression would be curtailed at a point determined by their biases, not by consideration of public safety.

    That being understood, it’s still disappointing to say the least that an employee of the City would joke about lynching non-violent protesters.

    I accept Melissa Williams explanation and apology, but I think a hard look has to be turned on the culture within the APD where an employee would feel supported in expressing this kind of animosity towards non-violent citizens exercising their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

  6. Kayvon Kazemini

    Lynn, I’m sorry we’ve caused you to display so much hatred. However, you have been profiling, as well as recording our demonstrations and GAs. I understand that you believe you are “doing your job”, but filming individuals, some of which have no criminal record, for some private occupy database is corrupt. I urge you to apoligize for your statements at a general assembly. As for your job, honor the oaths that you have taken. We all have a large capacity for forgiveness, and hope that something good can come out of this.

  7. OccupyYourHome

    I used to live on the street. I am now making close to six digits. Its not because I sat outside of a federal building. I toughed it out. I joined the military and protected my country while still qualifying for food stamps. I worked my way through the ranks, learned a skill, and now I use it to provide for my family. Since the economy has gone south Ive been unemployed and had to work a few minimum wage jobs, but I worked hard and got back on top. I didnt go to college but I do haven the GI BILL and plan to finish college and keep working hard. I am the 1%.

    • bill smith

      Hate to break it to you, but at six digits, working minimum-wage jobs, you are very much not part of what is referred to as the “1%”, sir. Although I do like your name.

  8. outsider

    Apparently Ms Fraser wasn’t so sensitive when the Teabaggers were slouching around with their pet guns.

  9. TwoBears

    Lynn Fraser has every right to exercise her 1st Amendment rights the way she sees fit, especially on a personal, social networking site. So do the OAVL protesters! I’ve seen worse remarks posted on this website about other members, especially those with differing political views. Likewise, the APD is no less insensitive to a citizen’s rights than the Asheville district judges and prosecutors who thrive on the money-making misdemeanor arrests that they FULLY support the APD and Buncombe County Deputies in making.
    Ultimately, it’s not about people’s rights, it’s about generating money for the city government, which has way too much power.
    ‘Exposure’ stunts like this one are usually caused to direct attention away from a potentially more serious issue that should warrant more concern. However, it could also just be as simple as a playground snitch trying to gain favor.

  10. martinv

    I’m involved with Occupy AVL, and I’d like to go on record, personally, that I have no animosity towards Lynn Fraser and we did not call for her job as an organization. We did not leak the information. It shows a rather callous outlook, but hey, the APD arrested a young woman for handing out fliers last night too.

  11. LOKEL

    The US Supreme Court has ruled that civil servants or public employees (teachers, firemen, etc.) do not have the same level of freedom of speech as the “rest of us” because of their very job of public service.

    What if every highway patrolman commented on the people that had pulled over the night before, or courtroom employees posted the days proceedings on their FB page.

    Her commentary crossed the line when it was observed that she had been video taping the proceedings (making her an active participant in the policing of the group) which, in turn, makes her comments refer to her job as a public servant.

  12. zensane

    Thank you, David, for being the only press in this city who actually thought it important to include the lynching remarks in your reporting. I’m witnessing an ongoing, distinct bias in the critical details being left out of other news agencies’ reporting. I’m also consistently witnessing where you keep breaking the stories and the other agencies only follow suit after its posted on their wall or something. It seems they get their reporting from your articles and then edit them to suit their biases.Maybe they should be paying you too, since all they do is aggregate your stories and modify them by stripping away important details.

  13. bobaloo

    Jason Bugg uncovered the ENTIRE story 2 hours before this post and you credit him with one image. Is it standard policy to blatantly steal content from blogs without crediting the original source?

  14. sadiesartre

    Oh, yes, Lynn, as Melissa said, “Enjoy your day off.”

    Yes, may you enjoy many more days off. Take a walk on the wild side, babe.

  15. glolady

    Since Lynn could not hug me with a rope around my neck…. http://www.mountainx.com/article/37223/APD-Chief-department-takes-employees-Facebook-comments-on-Occupy-Asheville-very-seriously

    She Lied To Me While Collecting Evidence For My Arrest… I WAS Targeted and Falsely Arrested!
    This is Lynn Fraser talking to me during the march on November 2, 2011. Hear my compliments to the Asheville police department for working with the people:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FzlFxXtrdw&list=UUh2UHeK2CJaLI9x3kbEduSg&index=6&feature=plcp

    This video is my actions at the march:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dUL90XqKuE&feature=related

    This is a video of how I was arrested:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-eqXxmkOEE&feature=related

    This was another attempt by local Government to deny my Free Speech. Wasting tax payers money on trumped up charges Should Be A Crime!!!

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