The Beat

Politely postal: Asheville residents rallying outside the downtown post office on Sept. 26 against possible cuts to the USPS. Photo by Jake Frankel

About 30 people gathered outside the downtown Asheville Post Office Sept. 27 to rally against possible cuts to the U.S. Postal Service and the local mail-processing facility on Brevard Road. Organizers touted the USPS as the successful centerpiece of a $1.3 billion mailing industry that supports 8 million American jobs.

They have an ally in Rep. Heath Shuler, who opposes Postmaster General Pat Donahoe's proposal to terminate 120,000 postal employees and close nearly 3,700 postal facilities throughout the country.

“The plans [being considered] would put a devastating number of postal employees out of work, especially in rural communities like those across Western North Carolina,” said Rep. Shuler in a press release. “Now is the time to keep and create jobs, not take them away. I strongly urge the USPS to explore alternative viable options to achieve fiscal solvency before taking drastic action that will ultimately hurt both postal workers and their taxpaying customers.”

Shuler is a co-sponsor of a counter proposal, H.R. 1351, which he says would reform the USPS retirement system to make up for its current $5.5 billion pension payment shortfall while still protecting USPS retirees.

Rallies like this one occurred throughout the U.S. — Jake Frankel

Solidarity: Occupy Asheville takes to the streets

On Oct. 1, about 100 people gathered in Pritchard Park and marched through downtown as part of Occupy Asheville. Held in solidarity with the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City, the event focused on an array of grievances, such as the financial malfeasance of the super rich, justice-system corruption and a general demand for change.

The Asheville protest began around 11 a.m. on the city’s Wall Street, with a gathering that memorialized Troy Davis, a recently executed Georgia man who many critics assert was wrongly convicted. Around 2 p.m., people gathered at Pritchard Park to begin a "general assembly." At first, those assembled mostly addressed process, legal and logistical concerns, such as marching as a “moving picket” so no special permit was needed. (The day before, the event announcement also singled out local criminal-justice reform, asserting the city ""must come together to educate itself about our local corruption and demand its end.")

Activist Luna Scarano, who recently attended Occupy Wall Street in New York, mentioned that some protesters were also tackling individual and local issues, including police and prisons, boycotts, food safety, gender and capitalism.

"So we're here for a lot of different reasons," Scarano said.

The group cheered at the news that local restaurant Tupelo Honey had donated hot biscuits, and cheered again shortly after when a passerby shouted "kill capitalism!"

Over the course of the afternoon, the group came to a consensus on three goals — marching, endorsing a Sept. 30 declaration by Occupy Wall Street and camping overnight in front of City Hall.

As the group gathered around 5 p.m., Foster asked the demonstrators to be polite to the police, as "they're part of the 99 percent," but she asked demonstrators not to consent to being searched. The line of people in the "moving picket" shouted, "We are the 99 percent," as they made their way towards City-County Plaza. Other chants included the old protest standby, "This is what democracy looks like," and the newer, "We got sold out, they got bail outs."

There was no heavy police presence near the demonstration, either during the moving picket or the initial assembly. As the march made its way through the Blue Ridge Pride Festival also taking place that afternoon, Asheville Police Department officers simply watched.

Some protesters camped out on Wall Street that night and the next one, and assembled each day in Pack Square.

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