Impasse over Occupy Asheville camp continues

Last night, Occupy Asheville’s coordinating council agreed on a letter asserting its camp in front of City Hall is “a representation of the people’s natural rights.” While not explicitly rejecting a proposal by Asheville City Council to voluntarily decamp, the letter didn’t accept it either, leaving an impasse over the fate of the camp heading into Council’s Feb. 14 meeting.

“We assert our rights as free-thinking people to speak and assemble freely in the time, place, and manner of our choosing and as best serves the needs of all people,” the letter reads. “We expect that City Council, as public servants, will also uphold these universal rights.”

The letter adds that Occupy Asheville “will pursue further dialogue.”

At Council’s last meeting, a proposal crafted by Council member Gordon Smith creating a permitting process for campers fell one vote short of passage, as did a move by Esther Manheimer to ban the camp outright and give protesters a Feb. 1 deadline. Occupy Asheville opposed both measures.

Council member Cecil Bothwell, along with Smith, then proposed that Council adopt a resolution against corporate personhood at its Feb. 14 meeting and asked the protesters to consider voluntarily decamping before that time. At the same meeting, Council will also vote on a possible deadline for the camp.

After two meetings of its general assemblies and another — two hours long — of its coordinating council, Occupy Asheville is no closer to taking the city’s deal. Spokesperson Naomi Archer tells Xpress that the group is united behind the letter, and “the statement is a reflection of where Occupy Asheville is … I think the letter speaks for itself. It’s not meant to be disrespectful, it’s meant to uphold our human rights.”

Among Council members, Bothwell’s been vocally supportive of Occupy Asheville since in its inception. Though at the last meeting, he did recommend that protesters take a different approach, moving away from the camp to focus on larger issues (some members of Occupy have made a similar argument in ongoing debates about the camp).

“They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, however they want to approach the issue,” Bothwell says. “But I expect on Feb. 14 Council will extend the park rules to where they’re camped.” As such a move would also extend the neighboring Pack Square Park’s ban on camping, it would mean eviction.

“I hate for it to be an ultimatum, but I think that’s what’s going to happen,” Bothwell tells Xpress. “Occupy has two ways forward, one is to decide that they’re going to move on to some other expression or to confront the city and I guess they’ll get evicted.”

“I think there are people in Occupy and in social justice action everywhere, who like that confrontation,” Bothwell adds. “That’s part of the street theater, that you get thrown out. Then that’s the news. If that’s the mood of the Occupy people, they’ll get arrested or thrown out.”

While he believes such an approach has its merits, “I don’t know where they’re going to go with this. The sense of Council is that we’re supportive of the goals and issues that Occupy is raising, but we can’t do much about it. They can beat their heads against city hall all they want to, but I can’t change corporate personhood.”

Since Occupy Asheville, after moving between a number of downtown sites, set up tents on the swath of city property in early December, the camp has remained a source of debate both within and outside of the movement. Council members have cited concerns from passerby, city employees, and surrounding business owners about sanitary conditions and aggressive members of the homeless population. In debates at its general assemblies, some members of Occupy Asheville, in favor of breaking camp or changing location have also expressed concerns about belligerent interlopers and exposure to the elements. Others, however, have contended that the camp is an important public presence that offers help to marginalized populations.


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9 thoughts on “Impasse over Occupy Asheville camp continues

  1. Paul -V-

    Here’s what the situation looks like from the outside:

    The Occupy Asheville Assembly reached consensus to take down the camp. However, certain campers decided they don’t want to follow The Assembly’s decision.

    Therefore the City of Asheville isn’t really dealing with Occupy Asheville – but instead a bunch of campers who’ve decided they don’t want to follow the very rules they’ve set up for themselves.

    – pvh

  2. Matthew Burd

    To clearify for you:

    The GA never decided to break camp. A group of about 14 campers in the Direct Occupy Working Group did. They came to GA and asked for help breaking the camp. This caused some confusion for the faciltator of that particular GA. There was a decision made to help the Direct Occupiers at that GA, but without reaching a consensus as to how. Thats where the meeting notes ended. GA ran out of time, and a group of people went back to camp to continue the discussion. At that point it was decided that a camp clean up was badly needed, and those who wanted to leave camp could freely do so without worry of being looked down upon by the group.

    So that Saturday a camp clean up happened and by Sunday it was a mess again…Not much has changed in the month that has passed.

    I left the encampment for personal reasons, however I am a total idealist and I believe that physical occupation should have the right to stay. I also have a decent knowledge of American History. Look up Hooverville and the Bonus Army. Occupy is not a unique event. This happened during the Great Depression. The difference between then and now is, then it happened organically out of nessecity. The occupy movement today started out as a protest so we dont get to the point of having to live in shanty towns out of nessecity. It seems as if that is what it is morfing into…

    The bonus army was broken up with the National Gaurd and a Tank after ten years… But they got the New Deal.

  3. “[Bothwell] recommend that protesters take a different approach”

    Why is a sitting city council member offering advice on effectiveness to a political movement?

    • sharpleycladd

      The concept of “public service” may be alien to those who inhabit the savage, barbaric, dog-eat-dog world of Randian objectivism, but it looks to me like Mr. Bothwell is offering advice to a group that’s seeking its constitutionally-guaranteed right to petition for redress.

    • bill smith

      Why shouldn’t he?

      And why do you never substantiate any of your claims, ever?

  4. Ricky Party

    Wait, people are still paying attention to this story? That is, people outside of this mixed, niche group of vagrants and political narcissists?

    Really, a fantastic contender for “Most Over-Reported Story” in next year’s Best of WNC awards…

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