Asheville Police Chief releases statement on Sunday protests

Press release from the Asheville Police Department: 

The Asheville Police Department and law enforcement across the nation have condemned what took place in Minneapolis. I recognize the anger and frustration in our community surrounding the death of George Floyd. Your anger is justifiable, and your First Amendment rights to speak and gather will be protected. The Asheville Police Department also has an obligation to protect the members of our community, property, those involved in the protest, and our police officers. 

Throughout the day on Sunday a group of demonstrators fluctuating between 15-50 participants peacefully protested at the Vance Monument. Around 5:30 p.m. the demonstrators rapidly started to increase, with around 120-150 individuals gathering at the Municipal Building, which houses the Asheville Police and Asheville Fire departments. 

At approximately 6:50 p.m the group proceeded toward Vance Monument, down Patton Avenue, and onto Haywood Street. They were escorted by the Asheville Police Department’s bike officers. Once reaching Harrah’s Cherokee Center they took the on-ramp to interstate 240. Knowing the potential hazards that  they would encounter with high speed traffic our officers attempted to steer the demonstrators onto a safer route. When they refused to comply, they continued onto the interstate. Officers then worked to stop all vehicular traffic to facilitate a safe passage.

Bike officers then set up a barrier, however demonstrators physically broke through. Contact with officers was made. The crowd then made their way onto 240 eastbound to the Charlotte Street off ramp. As they continued down 26 they began to throw flares and fireworks at vehicles and demonstrators were directly confronting vehicles which included trying to stop the flow of traffic traveling at 55 mph.  One vehicle hit a bike officer and three demonstrators resulting in the bike being broken in two. All four victims declined medical attention or transportation to Mission Hospital. Some demonstrators jumped the median to 240 westbound and began vandalizing the concrete barrier separating the east and west bound lanes. Others proceeded back to the downtown again gathered at the Municipal Building. 

At approximately 8:00 p.m. the demonstrators left the Municipal Building and proceeded back down Patton Avenue toward the I240W on ramp. The Asheville Police Department’s bike officers created a barrier at the intersection of Patton Avenue and Clingman Avenue to attempt to block the demonstrators from entering onto interstate 240 for a second time. From this area future 26 is also readily accessible. Had we allowed passage over the bridge at this point we would have lost control of the group and their safety would have been seriously jeopardized. We simply could not let that happen.

As the protesters approached rocks, fireworks, and other objects were thrown at officers. At this time verbal warnings were provided over a loudspeaker. When they did not comply, tear gas was used.

The tear gas was effective, causing half the protesters to disperse on their own. The remaining half requested a police escort back to the downtown area, which the Asheville Police Department provided. For the next few hours the crowd fluctuated in size with up to 300 protesters.

Around 11:00 p.m. the situation escalated, with protesters exhibiting acts of violence to other protesters, as well as police officers, and damaging property. At this time the Asheville Police Department utilized rubberized munitions. 

Property damage included broken windows and graffiti at Hotel Arras, several acts of graffiti vandalism to businesses up and down Biltmore Avenue, and a windshield broken on a police patrol vehicle.

The protest continued in front of the Municipal Building until approximately 2:30 a.m. 

There were a total of four arrests:
  • Cori Antonio Floyd, 29,  of Asheville – Fail to Disperse on Command
  • Anthony Pacer John, 32, of Asheville – Assault on a Government Official, Failure to Disperse on Command, Resisting Public Officer
  • Michael Fox Dean, 24, of Arden – Assault on a Government Official, Failure to Disperse on Command, Resisting Public Officer
  • Raphael Demetrius Morales, Jr., 30, of Asheville – Failure to Disperse on Command, Impede Traffic Sit/Stand/Lie
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