Statement from Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and City Council members Gwen Wisler (Vice Mayor), Brian Haynes, Vijay Kapoor, Julie Mayfield, Sheneika Smith and Keith Young:
George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer is deeply felt throughout our country, including our community here in Asheville. There is no reasonable explanation for what we saw occur in the video or for his death. Plainly, it shouldn’t have happened.
We extend our deepest and heartfelt sympathy for Mr. Floyd’s family, friends, and those who will miss him. He was part of our human family and shouldn’t have died in this way. The actions immediately leading up to his death by Minneapolis police were caught on video and have gone viral, along with the recent death of Mr. Ahmaud Abery in Georgia and the false accusation of Mr. Cooper in New York City. The common denominator in these incidents, and many more that do not go viral, is race prejudice plus power, which results in racism.
We know that a crime like this reaches across our country and people here in Asheville are hurting. We are frightened. We are outraged. We are distrustful. A violent breach of trust by a public duty officer such as this sadly reinforces these feelings and again reminds us that so much more work is needed for equitable treatment, access and opportunities to Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color.
What we can tell you is that our new Asheville Police Chief David Zack is committed to fair and community-oriented policing. And while Asheville police have had prior incidences of excessive force, including the incident against Mr. Johnny Rush that went viral, APD leadership has worked tirelessly to train and retrain officers, revise department policies concerning use of force, and add stronger accountability systems. You will hear more from our Chief of Police on this matter shortly.
Collectively, the Asheville City Council governs with a lens that includes perspectives and voices from the spectrum of diversity within the residents and neighbors across the City. We set an expectation that that lens will extend through the City by embedding racial equity from the beginning of policy development and all our decision-making through implementation.
We want our Communities of Color to feel their lives matter. We want our Communities of Color to feel included. We want to operate in a manner that demonstrates these values.
And while there is no erasing of centuries of abuse and mistrust nationwide, with Mr. Floyd’s tragic death, we recommit to listening, learning, and working toward an equitable and inclusive Asheville.
Asheville is a community of people; we see each other and value each other, and this Council strives to lead and govern in a way that reflects these values held by our community.