Occupy Asheville protesters talk about Pack Square Park arrests

After Asheville City Council refused Occupy Asheville’s request for indefinite camping in a public park on Oct. 25, eight protesters remained in Pack Square Park after curfew and were arrested. Four of those demonstrators tell Xpress about what they did, and why they did it.

Following Council’s decision, about 60 demonstrators gathered outside City Hall, chanting slogans. Over the next few hours, most of the protesters (and the police watching them) left. Some chose to remain after the 10 p.m. curfew and Asheville Police Department officers asked them to leave. According to the APD’s statement on the incident, most moved to another location.

But eight didn’t, and when they refused to move to another location, the APD arrested Joseph Lee Wallen, Robert Ryan Halas, Justin Eugene Jones, Matthew Tyler Burd, Terry James Whittey, Victoriano Alejandro Ochoa, Robert William Logsdon, Kayvon Kazemini for second-degree trespassing.

Here’s video of the arrests, taken by one of the Occupy Asheville demonstrators:

Watch live video from Occupy Asheville LIVESTREAM on Justin.tv

“They offered that we could walk to the jailhouse, but that would have been complying,” Kazemini tells Xpress. “We know there’s an ordinance; we believe the Constitution supersedes that.”

He asserts that the encampment the protesters are requesting isn’t an event like a festival, but instead an expression of the people’s constitutional right to assemble, and thus not subject to city rules like the curfew. “We just wanted one curfew

“They’re not allowing us to exercise our First Amendment rights to gather as a general assembly, which is what we are, we’re not selling anything,” Logsdon said. “We’re uniting as people, and they’re not letting us do that.”

“Our friend [Burd] decided he wasn’t going to leave the park, so we decided we weren’t going to leave either,” Jones tells Xpress. “We did this in protest that City Council didn’t even entertain the idea of waiving the curfew in a portion of one city park that could give people a safe place to congregate or see what everything’s about.”

“The right to assemble is guaranteed through the Constitution, but apparently not through City Council,” Wallen says.

“If you can’t appeal to City Council, who do you appeal to?” Kazemini says. “The name Occupy Asheville might confuse people, but this is for all the people.”

He added that organizers from the demonstration were meeting with staff from the Downtown Association in an effort to improve outreach.

“We certainly need the oversight of the Asheville community,” Kazemini noted.

All four said, however, that the APD’s treatment of the protest was courteous.

“They’re clearly nicer than your average cop,” Logsdon says, though he adds that similar arrests to clear protesters out of parks will be harder if Occupy Asheville’s numbers increase. “It took four hours to book eight people, they wouldn’t want to mess with 100.”

“It was good training for the police,” Kazemini says with a laugh.

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6 thoughts on “Occupy Asheville protesters talk about Pack Square Park arrests

  1. bill smith

    Kazemini-Do you really think anyone believes that you camping in a public park is a Constitutional right? For realz?

  2. robert jillich

    It would interesting to know as to just how many of these people are unemployed and collecting unemployment checks during this protest in the Asheville area. Protesting for a just cause is of a great thing to get a point of view across. But if some of these people are collecting unemployment checks while doing this protesting instead of job seeking and trying to better themselfs, then, just what is the point that they are trying to make to the public?

  3. Heather S

    @robert(respectfuly) the point is: the system is broken and it needs to be fixed. Occupy is the 99% for a reason. it is everyone, no matter their financial situation or the jobs they hold, no matter left or right,rich or poor(infact, a few very wealthy people who see the injustice of the system that is in place now, actively stand in solidarity with Occupy). it is about our voices being collectively heard as one saying to the corporations and the goverment and the big media that we deserve better than what you are trying to give us and we are not willing to settle.-HS

    I don’t think you lead by pessimism and cynicism. I think you lead by optimism and enthusiasm and energy.
    Patricia Ireland

  4. bobw

    I understand the cause some of these people are working for, but I think a great deal of them only see a chance to be doing something to show off what they think they know. In the video,I was proud of the speaker: he proved he can count and attempt poor humor. As I looked, I was bothered by what I saw (perception) as something that is trying to represent my good.

    • Mikey G.

      I completely agree Bob. The protestors were NOT being told that they couldn’t assemble, they have been assembling… they were only told that they couldn’t asseble in the park. An ordinace put in place for a number of reasons, that citizens voted for. I don’t apreciate the protestors making such ridiculous “stands”, it dilutes the real issues. Not only that, but they are trying to overthrow rules that we put in place through a democcratic system. Protestors! You are beggining to attack the wrong things! I have been torn by these protests, on one side I want to be a part, the core issues, and the reasons these protests started I agree with wholeheartedly, but I refuse to be associated with people who only want to embarrass themselves, detract from the real issues, and be needlessly oppositional to things that really do not need opposition. I thought we were the 99.9% together? Why do I feel like I’m not part of that anymore… Stop doing stupid, and needlessly pointless things, and more of us will join you!

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