Occupy Asheville camp among the last in the country

With the recent wave of evictions of Occupy camps around the country, Occupy Asheville’s encampment in front of City Hall is one of the few still standing.

The original Occupy Wall Street camp — in Zuccotti Park — was forcibly evicted last November and Occupy Los Angeles’ camp fell later that month. Occupy Portland was cleared twice: in November and late January. Occupy Charlotte was thrown out Jan. 31. Elsewhere in the Southeast, Occupy Atlanta was evicted in late October, Occupy New Orleans in early December, and Occupy DC this past weekend. Occupy Pittsburgh’s camp is mostly abandoned, with an eviction looming. A recent USA Today article called the actions “a second wave of evictions.”

Occupy Asheville’s campsite changed locations for much of its early life. When the protests began last October, a few tents clustered near the Wall Street parking deck served as the camp. Soon, others sprang up near the federal building. An appeal for a permanent, city-permitted location in Pack Square Park failed, but led to city staff — at Asheville City Council’s direction — agreeing to let demonstrators set up a temporary encampment under the Lexington Avenue overpass, but Council didn’t vote to continue that camp, and protesters, citing multiple problems with the location, agreed to leave. The federal building camp remained, and another encampment sprung up near the Merrill-Lynch building.

In late November, Occupy Asheville members set up tents on a swath of city property that didn’t technically fall within the neighboring Pack Square Park or its 10 p.m. curfew and camping ban. As there’s no prohibition for camping on the spot, it fell into a “legal gray area” in the words of City Attorney Bob Oast, and this camp proved more enduring than the others downtown. Right now, there are over 20 tents on the site.

While city staff proposed a camping ban on Dec. 13, Council balked, and instead sent the measure to the Public Safety Committee for review. At that committee, Council member Gordon Smith proposed a compromise — a permitting process — and directed staff to develop it. At Council’s Jan. 24 meeting, both Smith’s attempted compromise (which was opposed by Occupy Asheville) and an attempt by Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer to set an eviction date for the camp fell one vote short of passage.

But Occupy Asheville could soon share the fate of other camps around the country. While the last move to evict the campers failed, more than one Council member made it clear that was because they wanted to see the protesters voluntarily leave in return for the city supporting a resolution supporting the end of corporate personhood. On Feb. 14, Council will vote on evicting the camp (and on the corporate personhood resolution), though the measure will likely give the demonstrators some time to pack up.

After two general assemblies and a meeting of its coordinating council, the protesters didn’t take the city’s deal, instead issuing a letter claiming the camp is “a representation of the people’s natural rights.” Smith tells Xpress that he now feels “the votes are there to evict,” though he doesn’t plan to support the move.

Unlike protests in some other cities, Occupy Asheville hasn’t seen the same level of tense confrontation between police and protesters. While the remarks of some city employees have caused controversy, and the APD dropped charge for handing out fliers after a public outcry, there’s been no widespread crackdown, allegations of police brutality or prevention of media from observing police activity. City Manager Gary Jackson has noted that police and staff are trying a cautious approach to the camp and several Council members have expressed sympathy for the Occupy movement’s goals.

But the camp has drawn complaints from city employees, surrounding businesses and some passerby, fueling the support of others on Council for its end.

The encampment isn’t just controversial outside of Occupy Asheville. Since early December, some protesters have argued that the movement’s time and resources are better allocated elsewhere, and that problems from belligerent drunks to exposure to the elements make the location untenable. Others, however, countered that conditions at the camp have steadily improved and that it serves as an important public symbol.

Photo by Bill Rhodes


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3 thoughts on “Occupy Asheville camp among the last in the country

  1. Dana Jablonski

    Nice to know Boise Iddao occupy is not the only one still in place.we can be found on Facebook occupyboi or our website at we.occupyboise.org

  2. Occupy Evolve

    When all the tents are gone and all that’s left is education and awareness, the movement will evolve. After all tents do educate, people do. The tents are simply are a visual representation of those effected by this economic global crisis. But in order for the movement to evolve, we must first reach our into the community who wants change just as much as the protestors. But in order for this to take place we must make our camps a safe enviroment.
    for those wanting to bring ideas and solutions from the 99% that has not fallen in line with Occupy simply because the message of change through peace has gotten lost in the destruction of black bloc and the violence of radicals who’s civil disobedience compromised the entire Occupy movement in it’s first 6 months because moderation was never enforced.
    In this evolutionary season of change in the movement, the peaceful must separate themselves from those who just say they are peaceful. In Washington, D.C. we have an alliance with the police. They respect us because we respect them. We understand that logically the only way to move forward is by working with law enforcement and not against. Evolving through involving solutions for the community by the community. We can no longer claim to represent the ninety-nine and not involve the ninety-nine. The next phase is here. The terrible two’s are over. For those of us stubborn enough to seek peace through force will be alienated from this evolutionary change in the movement through their actions. This is how you will know the difference in the two’s. It is unfair to generalize the entire movement as violent and destructive when there are those of us in the movement who choose peace not in our words but our actions. Occupy Evolve is a community based movement who focuses on the actual 99% who want to see change done through peaceful solutions and revolutionary ideas. We are welcoming all cities to start an Occupy Evolve as an outreach for their communities. Let’s join the hands of those already involved in reversing homelessness and foreclosures. Let’s end the NDAA and other laws that take away our constitutional rights through legislative acts and in the number of voices so great that we must be heard. For those tent cities that still remain, this is our future. Do we want to evolve. Do we want just those from the camps to bring solutions or is it time to get our communities in the fold? Those of whom we represent?


  3. Homefries

    It isn’t a “gray area”, if there isn’t a law against it, it isn’t illegal.

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