Asheville protests escalate as demonstrators respond to George Floyd killing

TENSIONS ESCALATE: Asheville Police officers used tear gas during a May 31 protest against racial injustice. Photo courtesy of Ishka Shir

A peaceful gathering turned violent the evening of May 31 as protesters against police brutality and racial injustice were met with tear gas and force by the Asheville Police Department, according to reports from area news outlets and social media.  

By the end of the night, Asheville Police Chief David Zack and other officers had joined the line of protesters and knelt in response to the crowd’s demands for police to “take a knee.” Mountain Xpress was not present at the protest.

Chief Zack released a statement at 4:30 p.m. on June 1, following a press conference with Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell.

“I recognize the anger and frustration in our community surrounding the death of George Floyd,” Zack said in the statement. “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.”

Roughly 200 protesters gathered at the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville around 6 p.m. on May 31, according to reports from WLOS and the Citizen Times. Demonstrators of all ages, holding handmade signs and chanting “I can’t breathe,” joined hundreds of similar protests across the country demanding justice for George Floyd, an African American man killed by police in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25. 

The crowd marched through downtown Asheville and onto Interstate 240, which was closed in both directions. Protesters, escorted by the APD, eventually made their way to the Bowen Bridge, where police responded with “tear gas and force,” according to reporting from the Citizen Times

Protesters subsequently returned to the Vance Monument. Around 10:30 p.m., APD officers in full riot gear deployed rubber bullets and more tear gas against demonstrators, some of whom volleyed firecrackers and other projectiles at the police line. The crowd then walked to the APD headquarters a block away, moving closer to a line of officers wielding shields. Just after midnight, Chief Zack and several other officers knelt in solidarity with the protesters, according to reports from the protests. 

“This protest was to show the Asheville community that we are strong and stand with our black brothers and sisters,” says Nick Levine, a white photographer present at the protest. “We understand that we will never understand, but we fight on.” 

Four individuals were arrested during the protests, the APD reported in a June 1 press release: Cori Antonio Floyd, of Asheville, for failure to disperse on command; Anthony Pacer John, of Asheville, for assault on a government official, failure to disperse on command and resisting a public officer; Michael Fox Dean, of Arden, for assault on a government official, failure to disperse on command and resisting a public officer; and Raphael Demetrius Morales, Jr., of Asheville, for failure to disperse on command and impeding traffic by sit, stand or lie. 

The protests in Asheville mirrored clashes between demonstrators and police across the state. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department reportedly arrested 45 individuals over the weekend, and curfews are now in effect in Raleigh and Fayetteville. 

On Sunday, Gov. Roy Cooper authorized 450 members of the N.C. National Guard to assist cities that requested additional support for controlling the protests, as announced during a May 31 press conference. North Carolina joins more than 20 states with a National Guard presence; as of May 31, Guard troops had been sent to Charlotte and Raleigh. 

“I fear the cries of the people are being drowned out by the noise of the riots,” Cooper said. “Let me be clear about one thing: People are more important than property. Black lives do matter.”

Manheimer and the six other members of Asheville City Council released a statement on May 29 claiming that, while there is no way to erase “centuries of abuse and mistrust,” city leadership remains committed to equity and inclusivity.  

“We know that a crime like this reaches across our country and people here in Asheville are hurting,” the statement said. “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.”

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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21 thoughts on “Asheville protests escalate as demonstrators respond to George Floyd killing

  1. Lulz

    I hear that Antifa wants to come into the neighborhoods and take what is theirs. Plenty of helpless sheep out there for sure. But amongst them are wolves. LOL and they bite back.

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    • C-Law

      lulz-

      Truth 100%

      Antifa wants to dance the Boogaloo? I don’t think they’ve truly counted the price of admission to that party.

      Still wondering…how does systemic racism permeate a city, Asheville, dominated for decades by leftists? What explains the abject failure of Marxist Democrats who have for so long run Asheville to root out racism?

      Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.

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      • James

        Just as it only takes a few shrieking snowflakes insisting that masks are tyranny, it only takes a few well placed racists like you to keep that plague burning through a community, even Asheville. The only people who think Asheville is a failure are idiots like you who are pouting because we don’t everything to the benefit of straight, white, Christian men. You’ve endangered yourselves because you are lazy, obsolete and cowardly.

        And the problem with that tired cliche you keep spouting on these boards is that people like you don’t believe in science and literacy enough to ever actually be saying much is actually fact or truth…. Go take your evening Clorox shot. You’ll feel better.

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        • Richard B.

          You see James, there are thinking people amongst our readers who understand that your calling C-Law a racist is
          the codified response by Liberals saying to those who disagree, -“if you ask questions, then you are a racist”.
          And while doing so, you make the most nasty, racist comments allowed.
          You, my friend, have provided another great example of liberal hypocrisy rampant in our society.

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          • James

            He asked the question of how racism exists — because of “leftists” which is the default deflection position of people like the both of you. How many of YOU are out there speaking out against what happened to Floyd? And remind us all again how many liberals or minorities are members of the Klan, were marching in Charlotte or supported Trump’s attempts to railroad those men in the Central Park attack. He asked a question and I answered it. The truth does hurt it seems.

            Tell you what, once you can answer THOSE questions you will have a point. Because my observations speak for themselves like being able to see that earth is round. People simply stating the earth is flat and declaring that to question their opinion is discrimination is why there is so much contempt in society today….

            P.S. I’m no liberal. I left the GOP around the time Dementia Donnie and all those racists, cowards and traitors took it over. I’m registered Independent. As Reagan put it. “I didn’t leave the party. the party left me.”

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    • Laura

      If you would do research you would learn this rumor stems from Twitter. A white Supremacist created the account and said They were Antifa. The account is fake and the account is linked to Identity Evropa, a white power fraternity. They’ve also created other fake accounts too. Twitter removed the account on Monday or Tuesday.

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  2. WNC

    Easy to see why people have fled the Democratic Party over the last 20 plus years

    It’s also easy to see why Democratic Party is desperate to find voters from any source

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    • James

      And yet per voter registration data all over the country more people have left the GOP than the Democratic Party. But then real facts don’t matter to the delusional Dementia Donnie supporter I suppose…

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    • C-Law

      City living “progressives” need to feel the full effect of their cultural Marxism at play. Stupid should hurt. Fools learn no other way.

      Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.

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  3. C-Law

    I really admire those “urban youths” looting the Nike stores, desperately looking for a sturdy pair of work boots…anxious to rebuild Wakanda.

    Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two equals four. If that is granted, all else follows.

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  4. dyfed

    No mention of the smashed windows or the property damage/looting?

    Come on. Are we pretending that the building burnt down last night was unrelated?

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    • James

      No, we’re well aware of the damage but know that the killing of people is far worse… except to people like you who want us to forget the dead bodies whether at the hands of cops or your white supremacist buddies shooting up schools and churches. #BlackLiveMatter #TrumpSupportersKill

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    • Able Allen

      Hi Dyfed, please note this article is regarding the first night of protests on Sunday, not last night when there were smashed windows and looting.

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      • James

        His right-wing philosophical Potemkin village with its population of straw men….

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    • Richard B.

      Yes dy, we are pretending, I mean, all I’ve heard on MSNBC and CNN is how peaceful the protests have been.
      Apparently the videos that I’ve seen on other networks/cable stations are mock ups, probably a consortium of
      Fox News and Blaze TV. No doubt. I mean, who among our citizenry could actually be that wantonly destructive?

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