Six clean-energy protesters were arrested on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 1, in front of the Bank of America branch office on Patton Avenue in downtown Asheville. According to Asheville Police Department Lt. Stony Gonce, all were arrested for second-degree trespassing on the bank’s property during the event.
Prior to the arrest, a group of about 40 people listened to speakers in Pritchard Park, including Ken Brame of the Sierra Club Asheville City Council member and congressional candidate Cecil Bothwell about issues involving Asheville, the state of North Carolina and wind power.
A march followed to Royal Bank of Canada’s Battery Park Avenue branch, where protest the international company’s funding of the Keystone XL pipeline proposed to be deliver natural gas from Canada, through the Midwest and south to coastal refineries. An attempt to give an executive of RBC a letter outlining their position appeared to be denied, and the bank remained locked up tight throughout the rally.
The marchers then went to the Bank of America on Patton Avenue. There, rally organizers Amber Lee Williams and Steve Norris chained themselves to a wooden windmill sign meant to represent clean energy. The chains were cut by Asheville police officers, and the pair was arrested. Others arrested were Caleb Shaw, Thomas Beckett and Brendan Coffey. A man identifying himself as Robert Thomas said he was a customer but was arrested while trying to enter the branch to conduct business.
As the arrests unfolded, most of the crowd returned to Pritchard Park across the street. Of those who remained, Jesse Martin of Charlotte held a sign that read “BOA stop bankrolling coal.” He said he had vowed to stay there all night holding the sign and sitting down when “my arms are worn out.” But Todd Zimmer of Rainforest Action Network convinced Martin to come with him to the jail, saying, “Come on, man, let’s go to the jail, they need us there.”
Zimmer, who had addressed the crowd at the beginning of the march, went into the bank to close his account, as did Gretchen and Sam Lewis. Zimmer reported that he wanted to film his actions but was asked to leave if he did so. “There were a lot of cops in there, and suits, so I decided to do it another time,” he said.
Zimmer also outlined Rainforest Action Network’s complaints against the bank, saying, “Last year BOA invested $3.9 billion in dirty coal technology. Until they recognize the planet-damaging and human-health issues of these investments, RAN will continue to boycott and protest their actions,” said Zimmer.
Steve Norris and Amber Lee Williams under arrest in front of Bank of America
Norris and Williams carry their windmill sign to the bank.
Santa promises a lump of coal to a “bankster” for Christmas
The APD press release about the arrests:
On Thursday, Dec 1 at approximately 2:00 pm, a group of protesters, possibly in connection with the Rainforest Action Network and Occupy Asheville, convened on Pritchard Park in support of clean energy.
to see more images from this afternoon, click on this image gallery
The group consisted of approximately forty protestors that held banners, signs and used a megaphone to project their message. The group left Pritchard Park and marched to the RBC Bank at O’Henry/Battery Park Ave. and protested on the steps of the bank before delivering a pre-written note to the bank manager.
They then proceeded to march back toward Pritchard Park and rallied at the front of Bank of America. A wooden windmill, representing a form of clean energy, was erected on the grassy area in front of Bank of America, which is owned by BofA. Two people chained themselves to the windmill as the bank manager announced to the group to vacate bank property.
The Asheville Police Department Officers, following the instructions of the bank manager, again gave additional warnings by way of a megaphone, to vacate the property or face arrest. Six individuals decided to stay and were arrested for 2nd Degree Trespass.
Steven Norris 06-02-43
Caleb Shaw 07-10-81
Thomas Beckett 09-06-61
Amber Williams 04-12-92
Robert M. Thomas 10-24-68
Brendan Coffey 04-12-89
All six individuals were transported to the Buncombe County Detention Facility where they were then released on unsecure bonds.