Behind the “We are not Bashful” march

In response to a series of alleged assaults on LGBT individuals, a march is planned this evening from Montford into downtown. Here’s what’s behind the protest.

Some LGBT activists are claiming that from Friday, April 30, to Sunday, May 2, three LGBT individuals were assaulted and another threatened.

According to Amber Van Pelt, who’s helping to revive the Safe Streets Asheville Project, on Saturday, May 1, one woman was attacked with a metal pipe on the Clingman Avenue bridge. The next day, another person was hit in the face with a metal pipe on Cumberland Avenue and one other was followed and verbally threatened. In all three cases, the victims described the attackers as three college-age white men in a red Volvo. On that Friday, Van Pelt claims a woman was assaulted on Chestnut Street by a man driving a grey Chrysler. She believes that in all cases the individuals were targeted because of their perceived sexual orientation.

“All of the people attacked could easily be seen as part of the queer community,” Van Pelt notes.

Further, she and some friends were followed by three young white men on April 30 for several blocks in Montford, she adds. “We made them aware we knew they were there, and they eventually left.”

Allysa Oliver claims she had a similar experience on Cumberland Avenue, — on the same day. “I was walking with a group of friends who could be perceived as homosexual, and a group of guys got out of their car and said ‘Hello’ in a very aggressive manner and followed us for quite a few blocks.”

In reaction to the attack, Van Pelt says, “We’re starting a nonprofit called Safe Streets Asheville Project, to try and reach out to the community without the police. It’s our attempt to look out for ourselves.”

SSAP was initially founded in the summer of 2008 in response to a similar attack, but Van Pelt notes, it “lost its momentum as the attacks became less frequent.” The group is currently working on setting up contacts, a hotline for people facing similar assaults and other efforts.

“We’re trying to find people to offer free therapy for an extended period of time. We’re working on setting up a support group [and] self-defense classes, [and we’re] distributing whistles and pepper spray,” she tells Xpress

This evening’s march was pulled together after news of the attacks spread. An announcement from organizer Samantha Soper declares that “this peaceful, permitted demonstration is in response to recent alleged hate crimes against LGBTQ residents. The demonstration will promote harmony and tolerance.”

Representatives of Safe Streets and the march have met with police and city officials, and they have a permit for the demonstration, which begins at 6 p.m. at Tod’s Tasties on Montford Avenue and will proceed to the Vance Monument in downtown.

So far, no police reports have been filed in the attacks. Van Pelt, who’s spoken to the victims, says that’s due to distrust of the police and skepticism the attackers will be caught. “They’re terrified of cops,” she tells Xpress. “We’ve never been helped by the police as a community. A lot of people in the queer community have been assaulted by the police. Most of us don’t have any fond experiences with them, but a lot of us have had experiences with them. There’s a lot of fear.”

“Since I moved to Asheville [from Greenville, S.C.], I’ve noticed it’s like a haven, but I still experience the same kinds of threats and assaults since I got here, just not as frequent,” Oliver tells Xpress. “With this many assaults in one weekend, it’s nerve-wracking to walk down the street alone. It’s hard to report an attack if you don’t know who they are and they run away immediately after. Most gay bashings do go unreported because of that, or because [victims] feel the cops won’t handle it in an appropriate manner. But far as I know, the Asheville police force has been very accommodating towards trying to keep everyone safe.”

Asheville Police Department Chief Bill Hogan says that the department’s met with the march’s organizers.“We extended cooperation and they were very receptive,” he says,  encouraging attack victims to report it to the police as soon as possible,

“We don’t know that assaults occurred — not saying they didn’t, but we just don’t have any factual information to go on,” Hogan tells Xpress. “Obviously, if those kinds of things happen, they need to report them to the police immediately. We always encourage people, late at night, to travel in a group of folks. It’s just always safer for anyone out late at night.”

The lack of reports, he says, “puts us in a difficult situation. We want to investigate it, and if there’s a criminal act, we want to charge and prosecute.”

The faster it’s reported, Hogan continues, the better the odds attackers can be caught.

“It depends on what they did and if they can give us an accurate description, if they report it in a timely fashion. There’s been many, many cases where someone calls, immediately gives a good description, and we intercept the vehicle or the person walking down the street, identify this person as the offender and then enforcement action is taken.”

Stopping assaults is a priority for the police, he adds, but they need citizen cooperation.

“We want everyone to have the freedom to move about this community safely and not feel put upon or harassed, for any reason,” Hogan says. “Our desire is to have open lines of communication with all our citizens and for them to have the comfort knowing they can come to the police department and we’ll work hand-in-hand to make this community safe. We need citizens to be good witnesses and to help us be our eyes and ears.”

Oliver says that people should remain aware of their surroundings, and that assaults on LGBT people are more common than often thought.

“My experience with most gay bashings is that if you’re aware they’re aggressive, they’ll most of the time back off, because they’re afraid you’ll call the cops,” she says. “The worst thing you can do is ignore it. I’d like to see the community more aware. With everything going on, it seems like people can forget there’s still a civil-rights battle to be won, that’s not really being faced by anyone. I feel like the gay population’s pretty vulnerable.”

— David Forbes, senior reporter


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50 thoughts on “Behind the “We are not Bashful” march


    I am so sick of all the homosexuals crying about how they aren’t treated fairly…you know what? It’s NOT a civil rights’s a MORALITY issue…This great country was founded on God and biblical right and wrong…our forefather’s died for the rights we have and we WERE once a great nation until all the bleeding heart liberals overtook that nation and decided that we didn’t need God and look where we are today…people need to wake up and realize that. EVERYTHING is a CHOICE and it’s either RIGHT or it’s WRONG.


    to BORN IN ASHEVILLE: you’re sick, not to mention severely misinformed about US history. and oh yeah, this is a republic, not a theocracy, which means your religion is not the law and all people are supposed to be equal here. If this is a morality issue to you, then I would submit that race and gender equality are also morality issues.

    most of the worlds religions have no problems with sexual diversity, it’s only the Abrahamics that seem to take issue with it, and since it has long ago been proven that homosexuality exists in all species on this planet, it must be natural.


    What if people started getting beat up with pipe for going to church, or being white, or being rich, or being poor. Just because someone feels or thinks different than you they are wrong? Maybe what you believe is what wrong. Who’s to say really?

  4. Moved to Asheville

    You know what I’m sick of…ellipsis points…My great, great, great grandfather didn’t fight against slavery to have the period and the comma simply…done away with…and question marks…aren’t they the queerest of all the punctuation marks? C’mon Born in Asheville…use that hard earned right wing college education…drive your red Volvo over to the library and get reacquainted with your old friends semicolon and colon. Don’t be scared…diversity is good.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I am so sick of all the homosexuals crying about how they aren’t treated fairly…you know what? It’s NOT a civil rights’s a MORALITY issue…This great country was founded on God and biblical right and wrong…

    Further proof that a keyboard and access to the internet doesn’t automatically mean one should post anything.

  6. WitchDoctor

    Thankfully, most people that were “Born in Asheville” have critical thinking skills that exceed that of a third grader.

  7. Tiger Lilly

    Whatever you may think about how other people should be, that doesn’t justify physical violence.

  8. Gabriel Shaffer

    “This great country was founded on God and biblical right and wrong”
    BORN IN ASHEVILLE your blind lack of historical accuracy is staggering.

    “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.”
    -Thomas Jefferson

    “So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: “Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor’s religion is.” Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code.”
    – Mark Twain

    Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.
    –C.S. Lewis

    A cult is a religion with no political power.
    –Tom Wolfe

    The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.
    –Friedrich Nietzsche

    Everyday people are straying away from the church and going back to God. –Lennie Bruce

  9. True Patriot

    It never ceases to amaze me how often people who claim to be so religious use the Bible for hate, and are selective in which Bible passages they choose to live by. Homosexuality is mentioned 6 or 7 times in the Bible, and never by Jesus. Adultery and divorce are mentioned dozens of times, and by Jesus himself. But you don’t see these people out protesting that. There are over 100 passages mentioning helping the poor (Jesus spoke of this too) as “bleeding heart liberals” often try to do, but many (not all) of these religious conservatives oppose that too.

    I don’t know you, maybe you do live a righteous life and help the poor. And it’s so wonderful that you can control who you fall in love with, can control who you are attracted to, you can probably even make yourself love certain foods, cars, everything in your life you CHOSE to want. The rest of us have natural cravings that we cannot control the impulse or attraction to. I don’t like coffee. The rest of the world loves coffee, and I want to be like everyone else. But try as I may, I can’t develop a taste for it. I can force myself to drink it, gagging and retching the whole time, but I don’t truly like it. I wish I had the ability you seem to have…to make myself love coffee.

    Most “bleeding heart liberals” are religious, active in their church and in their communities. They volunteer their time and money to help others in need. They have a strong faith in God. They care about people, want to help the poor, and, even though they may not understand other’s “choices” in lifestyles, they are tolerant, accepting, and forgiving. If you truly feel it’s wrong, try to help, not judge…or let God deal with it.
    It troubles me that you seem to think it is alright to beat people with metal pipes because they are gay…is it also okay to beat adulterers, people who have ever lied (even a little white lie), people who are divorced, etc.? Is that what Jesus would do?

  10. Piffy!

    [b]EVERYTHING is a CHOICE and it’s either RIGHT or it’s WRONG.[/b]

    So, you chose your sexuality?

  11. JWTJr

    I know gay guys who believe they made a choice. I also know gay guys who think they were born with their orientation and cannot choose.

    That tells me the issue is far more complicated than many think. Nature is very diverse. Both cases could easily be true.

  12. Bugg

    For all of the straight people who say it’s a choice, I just wonder when in their lives they made the choice? Was there ever a point when they were equally into both sexes?

  13. Ken Hanke

    That tells me the issue is far more complicated than many think. Nature is very diverse. Both cases could easily be true.

    So does that mean you agree with the original poster?

  14. JWTJr

    Ken … if there are those that can choose and those that cannot choose, then I guess there are 2 groups with different issues. I have no answers on how to deal with that. I’m glad its not me having to decide. I can’t agree with the top poster because I don’t believe its that simple.

    There’s no biological evidence right now for us to work with to support or refute anyone’s argument. We are only speculating.

    When/if a biological or genetic marker is discovered that identifies a specific orientation or a range of orientation that would allow choice, that would certainly focus the discussion.

  15. Daniel Withrow

    Let’s posit that there are people who choose to develop a taste for cilantro, and people who are born with a genetic like or dislike for cilantro. Let’s posit that there are some people who choose to develop a particular sexual preference, and people who are born with a genetically-determined sexual preference. Why on earth should I care about either case? Unless you’re sexually or cilantriffically assaulting me, it’s really none of my beeswax; and if you are, the least of my worries is about whether your preference is genetic or learned. The whole nature/nurture issue is a total red herring when it comes to the morality of sexuality; the important issue is that if any of our founding fathers fought for the right to beat up gay people, those founding fathers were jerks.

  16. When/if a biological or genetic marker is discovered that identifies a specific orientation or a range of orientation that would allow choice, that would certainly focus the discussion.

    That would something called “science,” a word that some Christians have an aversion to…

    …until they need to see a doctor of course.

    Remember the racism was biblically justified as well.

  17. JWTJr

    Racism, sexism, homophobia exist all over the globe. Christian, Muslim, Atheists, etc. No one has ownership of it.

  18. Sage

    WTF do people care who if I am a guy who is attracted to other guys? It’s so stupid. And just as stupid are straight guys who think all gay men want to sleep with them. Uh we have standards just like everyone else.

  19. Gary James

    Wow. Born’s comments are just so appropriate as to why republicans get elected and tea partiers are able to get followers.(You know, all those folks that support people and things against their own best interest and the interest of humanity). Also supports why people must march in the streets. And why blacks sat at the lunch counter. Hey, guess what? It isn’t a morality issue any more than white/black marriage is. And, you certainly can live a moral life without Christianity or religion (Great book for you, “The God Delusion,” by Richard Dawkins. But, I assume, you won’t be reading as that would get in the way of watching Faux Noise, The Great Glenn Beck and Drug Limbaugh.) In any event, kudos to the organizers and those willing to march to show “they are not bashful.” Sorry to all those wanting them to shut up and stay hidden. Just like their longing for the “good ole days” of old time religion and “christian nation building,” that time has come and gone.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Racism, sexism, homophobia exist all over the globe. Christian, Muslim, Atheists, etc. No one has ownership of it

    Which has nothing whatever to do with the validity of the point that was being made.

  21. “could easily be seen as homosexual”, “could easily be seen as part of the queer community” …. WHAT Do these term mean?? I’m a lesbian and I have no idea what these terms mean! People holding hands? Do Queer people look a certain way?

  22. Racism, sexism, homophobia exist all over the globe. Christian, Muslim, Atheists, etc. No one has ownership of it.

    Nope, but these have been preached from the pulpit in the past and I’m sure well into the future. I can’t imagine an atheist meeting where any of that is on the agenda.

  23. Ken Hanke

    Ken – I was referring to Orbit’s post

    That’s what I was referring to. Citing the fact that other religions have done the same thing does nothing to change the validity of Marc’s (Orbit’s) post about the same religion being used to condemned gays that has been used to support racism.

  24. Sage

    These alleged incidents are heinous and should not be tolerated. And one positive could be reminding people that this is not San Francisco in the mountains. People move here with blinders on buying into the media hype of this town being a gay nirvana. Asheville is pretty liberal relative to much of the state but it’s still NORTH CAROLINA. So you need to watch your back 24/7.

  25. Tyler

    Great discussion everyone! Even though I may be a die-hard liberal, and agree most with the liberal commentators, I understand how important discussion is. Anyone who comments about “the founding fathers” needs to understand more than anything that they would have encouraged discussion of the issues and reworking of societal institutions based on common agreements. (Agreements like: its a bad thing to harm, or threaten to harm, people of ANY creed.) Thats why the writers of our Constitution made it malleable, so that based on changes in society, subsequent changes can occur in societal institutions. Thus, the issue becomes whether one can and will sanction free expression of sexuality, or violence towards other citizens our society is set up to protect.

  26. Daniel Withrow

    To be fair, Orbit, the only “atheist meeting” I can think of that’s had any significant impact on the world is the one attended by various political ideologues, e.g., Chairman Mao (there are various scientific conventions that are more nontheist than atheist, inasmuch as they don’t address the presence of a god–but even some of these have had hinky racist/sexist/homophobic agendas). And there was plenty of homophobia in revolutionary China. You can find other atheist regimes that practiced vicious racism or sexism.

  27. Killarue

    Well, I like the discussion but not sure if the OP was just trying to stir things up. BTW, I am curious about why this person reads MX, but maybe “change is gonna come”!

  28. Tiger Lilly

    The question of whether sexuality is a choice or has a more genetic basis is a red herring. Depriving folks of rights, or beating them up, based on a perception of who they are, is unjustifiable. Beating anyone up is unjustifiable.

    The international legal community, including the U.S. Supreme Court, has affirmed that the expression of sexual intimacy among consenting adults is a basic right. While the U.S. Gov’t. as a whole (not to mention the states) has sent mixed messages on the subject, the direction of world-wise consensus is clear: freedom of expression is to be respected.

    Those who seek to impose their definition of normative standards on everyone, and to punish or marginalize those who don’t conform, should look into themselves to find the source of their discomfort.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Cilantro is an evil weed, straight from the Devil. Read your Bible.

    In the case of cilantro, it might be on to something.

  30. Barry Summers

    In the case of cilantro, it might be on to something.

    If you’re referring to the Bible, Ken, I believe it’s appropriate to capitalize “It“.

    Point is, I believe that cilantro is a horrible taste, but you can’t escape it – those out there who have ‘chosen’ to enjoy this hellish flavor are forcing the rest of us to accommodate their lifestyle. It’s trendy, it’s hip, it’s risque, and more and more restaurants shove it into everything. The last time I was at Salsa’s, I asked Hector the chef if he had any salsa without cilantro – he looked across the ten salsas available & scratched his head, “You know, I just realized – no, they all have cilantro in them…”

    Makes me mad. Who do I have to oppress to take this choice off the menu of available flavors?

  31. Ken Hanke

    Who do I have to oppress to take this choice off the menu of available flavors?

    The parsley family?

  32. JWTJr

    You guys have totally lost it. Cilantro is delicious. You must be cracked to not agree. This means War!

  33. Barry Summers

    The parsley family?

    Demon spawn. Unnatural. Like eating shellfish while working in clothes made of wool and cotton on the Sabbath, it’s an abomination.

    All cilantro eaters must go.

  34. Barry Summers


    You probably open your eggs at the small end. Loser. Cilantro-lover.

  35. Piffy!

    you can have my gay cilantro when the UN soldiers pry it from my cold, dead hands.

  36. Barry Summers

    Hey I never said cilantro was gay, I just said that it tastes awful.

    And it’s an abomination. Everyone who disagrees is wrong wrong wrong.

    And they must go.

  37. Tyler

    Barry you watch your language. Cilantro = delicious. I would eat Cilantro cookies. Your slanderous tirade against cilantro is disheartening. WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TOOOO!??

  38. Barry Summers

    Calm down, Tyler. They’re doing wonders at the Cilantro Deprogramming Center these days.

  39. Barry Summers

    Oh, and BTW? Cilantro cookies? Just when I thought it was wrong, it’s wronger. That might be the wrongiest. You need deprogramming. And I say that with all love and respect – you’re wrong & need to be fixed.

  40. Tyler

    Thank you all for your concern. Apparently my Cilantro deprogramming is going to be a popular event. I wonder if I should send out “save the date”s… Wait. STOP THAT! You have me convinced that my lifestyle “choice” is a bad one, but im happy with my star-crossed love of Cilantro!

  41. Matt Mercy

    The police are not mandated to protect anyone…just to investigate and arrest so justice can be carried out after the fact.

    I say buy a gun, take classes on how to use it and get a concealed-carry permit…and learn the laws regarding lethal force in self-defense situations. An armed community is a polite and safe community.

  42. Gazzbot

    Following Matt’s thread here, I now totally understand why the Rightwing, Red Meat, Ultra conservative, wing nut Chuck Norris showed up in Asheville for his Stunt Gun party.

    And, Ken, the Parsley Family was an hysterical reference. LMAO.

    Thnx for the chuckles

  43. lookatmeimsoshiny

    So to all you following along at home, that’s how you make a great LGBT sandwich even better- by adding parsely and cilantro to the Lettuce, Grey poupon, Bacon and Tomato. I bet all this diversity makes even you glennbeckers hungry, mmm?
    Join us next week for another edition of “Carolina Kitchen”.

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