Council will vote on camping ban, aimed at Occupy Asheville

On Dec. 13, Asheville City Council will vote on an ordinance banning camping, storage and enclosed structures on city property. Occupy Asheville protesters are currently encamped in front of City Hall.

Camping in public parks is prohibited by city ordinance, which also sets a 10 p.m. curfew. But the ordinance doesn’t prohibit pop-up tents, overnight occupation of city properties that are not parks or sleeping on public property.

“In essence, what the ordinances do is clarify that public properties, including parks, remain available for free speech or assembly purposes, but that other activities not essential to the free speech or assembly use do not occur in such a way as to interfere with the use and enjoyment of these properties by others,” says the summary written by City Attorney Bob Oast. “Unpermitted activities must yield to activities for which a permit has been obtained. As drafted, these ordinances provide that they may be enforced through criminal penalties, a Class 3 misdemeanor.”

Oast’s summary names Occupy Asheville as the catalyst for the new rules.

“Most of these issues and uncertainties have arisen in the context of the ‘Occupy Asheville’ movement, which is similar to ‘Occupy’ movements occurring in cities across the country,” Oast writes. ” In other cities, encampments have been forcibly dismantled and there have been confrontations with police, and legal actions with mixed results. The experience in Asheville has been generally cooperative and respectful, with no serious confrontations.”

But, he adds, “concerns have arisen with some activities, notably the use of enclosed tents, proximity of the encampments to business/public entrances for nearby buildings, and presence on or near public right of way. These concerns would exist with any similar use of City property.”

Meanwhile, Occupy Asheville participants have been debating whether to break camp or move to another area, citing safety concerns, such as problems with belligerent drunks, as well as the challenges posed by the coming winter. Just after new Council members were sworn in at City Hall on Dec. 6, a general assembly met outside the entrance to consider the matter. Some protesters argued that Occupy Asheville’s resources are better focused elsewhere and that occupying foreclosed properties or setting up a base on private property is a better tactic. Others asserted that the current location is ideal to reach the public and, despite the problems, is becoming safer and better organized. Debate continued at general assemblies throughout the week, and Occupy Asheville has not reached a consensus on the fate of the City Hall camp.

Council will decide the matter at its Dec. 13 meeting, starting at 5 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.