Climate change culture clash

With chants of “Stop mountaintop removal, it kills!” and “No more coal!” some 40 protesters—some dressed as canaries and polar bears—swarmed around the Bank of America on Patton Avenue around 2 p.m. on Aug. 13. A handful of the young activists entered the bank, where they dumped coal on the floor and locked themselves together around the neck.

It’s getting hot in here: Climate change activists swarmed around — and into — the Patton Avenue Bank of America to protest what they say is the bank’s support of coal-mining companies. photos by Jon Elliston

Within an hour, the Asheville Police Department dispatched teams of officers numbering almost as many as the protestors and stopped traffic on several blocks of Patton to deal with the situation. Before the afternoon was over, the department’s riot squad would hit the streets, and officers would make five arrests inside the bank.

Meanwhile, the protestors pranced around in front of the bank and in Pritchard Park, waving banners and chanting slogans, while scores of pedestrians and workers from nearby businesses looked on. “What’s going on?” some asked. Others decided they knew enough about the proceedings to shout their own messages to the demonstrators: “Get a job!” and “Take a bath!”

As the afternoon wound down, the crowds dissipated and the protestors went to the Buncombe County Detention Center to perform “jail solidarity” and raise bail money for their comrades.

Banking on trouble: Asheville police officers, including K-9 units, secured the outside of Bank of America while other officers made arrests inside.

Throughout the affair, it seemed that the protestors and the police knew what they were doing and why they were doing it. But for others involved—the bank’s employees, the bystanders, the employees of neighboring businesses—big questions lingered. Why target Bank of America, and why with such unconventional methods? Why such a heavy police response? And what was the point of it all?

To find the answers, a team of Xpress reporters covered the events as they unfolded, and afterwards interviewed the major players in the Monday-afternoon melee. See the following articles for the perspectives of the protesters, the police, and the local business people unexpectedly caught up in the debate about climate change.

Editor’s note: The main author of each article in this series is noted in its byline, but all of the articles drew on reporting from Xpress staffers Rebecca Bowe, Jon Elliston, David Forbes and Brian Postelle.

Sticking their necks out:
The activists’ story
by Rebecca Bowe

Dog day afternoon:
Many downtown merchants take protest spectacle in stride; others decry “spoiled brats”
by Hal L. Millard

Policing the protest:
Riot team, K-9 units—but no Tasers—deployed
by David Forbes


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About Jon Elliston
Former Mountain Xpress managing editor Jon Elliston is the senior editor at WNC magazine.

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