A diverse group of citizens, concerned about several recent incidents involving law enforcement and activists, has decided to push for a citizen’s review board on the Asheville Police Department, as well as increased pressure on city, county and state officials and more of a citizen presence at demonstrations throughout the city.
The group of about 70 people that came together last night at the West Asheville Public Library included members of the Veterans for Peace and Women in Black (organizations that hold weekly vigils and protests), as well as local business owners, members of the Libertarian and Green parties, radio personality Virato (who had organized the meeting), Indie newspaper publisher Pasckie Pascua and a number of other individuals. City Council candidates Lindsey Simerly and William Meredith also attended.
The common concern for the group was recent actions by law enforcement that activists perceive as threatening the rights to free speech and protest, including the flag-desecration arrests of Deborah and Mark Kuhn, the arrest of activist Jonas Phillips, who was holding an “Impeach Bush/Cheney” sign above the Haywood Road overpass, and police reaction to a protest in at the Bank of America.
There was common agreement that the group should press for a citizen’s review board for the Asheville Police Department, something Simerly, Meredith and Rosebud Video owner Leslie Armstrong agreed to take the lead in organizing. The group also agreed that everyone attending would send at least one e-mail to a city, county or state official voicing their concerns, and that they would all work to increase attendance at regular demonstrations already occuring in the city.
The group has agreed to meet again next Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Eaties’ Cereal Bar (48 Commerce St. in downtown Asheville) at 6 p.m. to further plan their course of action.
— David Forbes, staff writer