Four Occupy Asheville demonstrators, part of a “corporate clean-up crew” were arrested for trespassing this afternoon after picking up litter and wiping windows on the Merrill-Lynch building in downtown.
Starting around 11 a.m., the protesters, with about seven others observing, recording and (via a hand-held megaphone) commenting on their activities.
The protesters asserted that the action was meant to highlight the need to clean-up corporate control and government corruption, while highlighting that a building occupied by Merrill-Lynch, a recipient of bail-out funds, couldn’t keep its own space clean.
“We want to see a world where, instead of money ruling everything, people actually have some power, like democracy,” demonstrator Victor Ochoa said through the megaphone. “Apparently, they can’t clean up their own trash, whether it’s foreclosure documents, or what resulted in economic collapse and billions in bailouts. They’re getting arrested for trespassing and cleaning up trash; someone has to do it.”
Starting around 12:15 a.m., Asheville Police Department officers arrived to arrest the “clean-up crew” for trespassing.
“It was public spectacle, this was to be expected,” Martin Ramsey, part of the clean-up crew, said. “They said there’s a line here between public and private property, but it all looks outside to me. I don’t really care whether they say it’s a public or private sidewalk, because that distinction seems ridiculous, especially considering our current situation.”
When APD officers instructed him to come over to a nearby police vehicle, Ramsey slowly put down his sponge and walked over to be handcuffed.
“There’s a lot of things in Asheville that need to be cleaned up,” Amy Hamilton told Xpress of her reasons for participating in the clean-up, as she sat handcuffed on the curb, awaiting transport by the APD. Earlier, she’d shouted “welcome to Asheville” to passerby as she was being arrested, her cleaning gloves still on.
“There’s a lot of trash around here, and a lot of clean-up to be done,” Hamilton said.
Demonstrator Olof Pohlson said the protesters had issues with a private security guard earlier, who he claimed had threatened to pepper-spray demonstrators. However, Pohlson praised the APD’s conduct throughout the incident.
After the arrests, an APD sergeant told Ochoa that, according to city ordinance, he couldn’t use the megaphone, though he was free to talk in his own voice.
Full names and charges for all the demonstrators are forthcoming, but an APD officer on the scene said charges of second-degree trespassing are most likely.
The arrests are the first associated with an officially endorsed action by the Occupy Asheville demonstrators, as representatives released an announcement of the “clean-up crew” earlier this morning.
The protests began Oct. 1, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests, and have continued with regular “moving pickets” and general assemblies. The announcement earlier today mentioned. Currently the city of Asheville has permitted the demonstrators to camp in a parking lot under the Lexington Avenue overpass, pending the negotiation of a more permanent spot.