For the record: Mayor Bellamy on protesting in Asheville

In the aftermath of the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action’s protest at the Patton Avenue Bank of America branch on Aug. 13, some debate has centered on city government’s response. The Asheville Police Department wasn’t the only government entity to issue a public statement in the wake of the demonstration. Near the end of the City Council meeting the following day, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy weighed in with her comments.

Bellamy’s message may have been distorted after a few runs through the local rumor mill, which generated conflicting accounts heard in various discussion circles since the event. Below are the mayor’s verbatim comments — taken from a tape of the meeting — with additional comments from Council members Robin Cape and Carl Mumpower, who addressed the matter shortly after Bellamy did.

— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor (transcription by Jon Elliston, managing editor)


Mayor Terry Bellamy: “We did have some bad news. We had people who were part of the Southeast Convergence on Climate Action come downtown to the city of Asheville to the Bank of America building and chain themselves in the building to protest [climate] change and [the bank’s] investments in coal-fired plants in places that are not even in our community. …

And it was amazing to me as mayor to have that happen in the city of Asheville, when just two hours down the street in Charlotte is the Bank of America’s headquarters. And I was thinking, ‘Why would you come Asheville to do your protest … it takes our city dollars and our city resources to deal with this issue.’ We had to pull officers who were patrolling as far west as out Leicester Highway to come downtown to help with this protest. … If they don’t like the investments Bank of America is making, go to the headquarters two hours away.

Not only that, but Progress Energy, they are doing more investment locally in cleaning up our smokestack than any other place. They use Asheville as the model place … on how to have a clean scrubber, how to have a better power plant.

And my concern is, I don’t want that to be the pattern in the city of Asheville. So I’ll be supportive of the police to use the force that they need to to not allow that to happen. And I do want to say, to set it straight for the record, [that] no police officer used any Tasers to address this concern, and so I would like that cleared up. … No Tasers were used. I just think that the best way to address these policies is, like the [city of Asheville’s] Sustainability Committee: We’re looking at our carbon emissions over the next few years, we’re looking at creative ways to address these issues. Councilman [Brownie] Newman is giving out light bulbs. I mean, there are creative ways to address this in our community, we need don’t need to have these types of demonstrations that impact people this way. And I think our community is bigger than that.”

[a few minutes later, other Council members addressed the issue]

Robin Cape: “I do want to go on record that I respectfully disagree with deterring the right for people to protest within the city of Asheville. I think you always take a risk when you go on private property to do your protest, but that’s one great thing: As someone who grew up in the military, what I was told over and over was that the guiding principle I was being raised with was that America was a place where people could stand up and voice their dissent in all areas. And that is one of the civil rights that I refuse to say is not acceptable. … I don’t protest, but I don’t want to say that other people can’t protest, because I think that’s what distinguishes us from many countries in the world and is a right that I would not want to give up.”

Terry Bellamy:
“Let me be clear, because I know how things get started and go to YouTube or e-mails. The thing I think is deplorable is for them to chain themselves up on private property belonging to Bank of America and then refuse to leave when asked to. I think, we have permits, you are able to get a permit and protest in the city of Asheville. I don’t know the process, but I know that you can get a permit. You can have a march. You can have a rally. I’m not coming against that. I think that when people lock themselves up and go into a building and put on chains and collars and use bicycle locks to lock themselves in, that’s wrong. I think that that’s wrong.”

Carl Mumpower: “As someone who protests frequently at this table and is received with censorship and other constraints, I appreciate you highlighting the fact that these folks weren’t just protesting, they were intruding on the rights of others, and indulging themselves in disrupting a business. They had other agendas beside protestation, and I think our police are to be commended as you highlight, for their measured response to those activities. Some of the folks in that group appeared to be well trained in how to magnify their concerns and take full advantage of the opportunity that this is a tough thing for police to handle. And I was particularly proud of their measured and effective response to that abuse of other people’s rights.”

Robin Cape: “And I would like to continue by saying [that] I know people break the law, and I don’t support people breaking the law. But the way it was framed, the way I heard it, was that we wanted people not to protest in the city of Asheville, and I’m sorry if I misunderstood you. … If you’re on private property and you do things that are illegal, you know if you break the law, you break the law. And I support the police in doing what they need to do in those situations.”



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10 thoughts on “For the record: Mayor Bellamy on protesting in Asheville

  1. What I learned:

    1.It is wrong to chain yourself to things.
    2.It is okay to protest as long as you don’t make too much noise, and no tourists see you.
    3.Brownie Newman is giving out lightbulbs
    4.It is ok for compnaies to ruin the enviorment elsewhere as long as they show minimal commitment locally to cleaning up after themselves.
    5. Mumpower is a douche-bag.

  2. Dionysis

    Hey, ‘hate pants’, nice summary of the relevant points. Yes, poor widdle Carl Mumpower, who valiantly warns against ‘socialism’ (but is oddly silent on corporate welfare) and who makes the community safer by going to rock concerts and helping to get a few potheads arrested has to endure the agony of being ignored. Douche bag? Hmmmmm. Yes, it fits.

  3. Jon Elliston

    Attention posters on this thread: Please stop calling people derogatory names here. If you post any additional personal insults of this nature, we’ll need to close your comments.

    Thank you,

    Jon Elliston, managing editor

  4. My apologies, I was thinking along the lines of like you know when you call a stink beetle a stink beetle, you don’t mean no harm by it, you’re just calling it by its name, unfortunate nomenclatura aside.

  5. wildman

    Well all I want to know is how many dollars the Chamber of Commerce calculates was spent in Asheville while the Bank was being help hostage.
    That is all that matters to the powers that be.
    I say invite them back when they can stay longer and ask them to bring friends.

  6. ??how many city council members does it take to sc

    i’m widly diasappointed (but not much surprised) in the mayor for her lack of knowledge about protesting rights and procedures in the city she’s partly responsible for governing.

    furthermore, she sounds disinterested and comfortably ignorant in knowing nothing about the intentions of the protestors or the message they were trying to get across.

    bank of america headquarters and all their chains are all fair game, in my opinion. people need to know about it’s piece of the coal pie, whether they live in asheville, charlotte, or any other city block that a bankofamerica inhabits.

    go terry for trying to keep your fellow city-mates blind and dumb in order to protect the interests of commerce in the area. don’t count on my support from here on out!

    i learned just the same as what “hate pants'” said in their sarcastic summary of the half-ass discussion. and a pat on the head to brownie’s award-winning efforts to slow climate change and educate people on how to combat global warming by screwing in a light bulb.

  7. donaldoro

    i wonder if mayor bellamy is aware of the massive spending it took to have the ridiculous
    amount of surveillance for the climate change conference where these protesters originated from.

    helicopters, planes, government infiltrators… all for some folks who want to create discussion on REAL solutions to the Serious Crises we are all facing. solutions that effect true change, not just a new trinket to buy. (brownie)

    seriously. ask anyone who was at the conference what level of surveillance and infiltration was there. completely unnecessary, and yet cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not more. where is mayer bellemy’s outrage at this?

    and why is it the ‘protesters’ fault that the police respond in such unnecesary force? are you telling me they needed to block the street in front of the bank with all those squad cars?? they needed cops in frickin Riot Gear?!? nobody was armed (except the police), this was a fairly benign protest.

    maybe it’s just that they felt stupid, since they (the police) had just given a press statement at the fire dept. down the street about an hour before claiming that their ‘infiltrators’ had successfully thwarted an action earlier in the day. boy, i bet their faces were red.

    mayor belemy: the mayor of Busniess as Usual.
    Brownie Newman: Accurately Representing yuppies in their benign clue-lessness.

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