Responding to a letter from Parkside developer Stewart Coleman, protesters beneath the magnolia tree adjacent to City/County Plaza are planning “direct action” workshops and demanding that either the city of Asheville or Buncombe County declare eminent domain to return the property to public hands
“There is nothing left but eminent domain,” said Elaine Lite, one of several who spoke before a crowd of about 50 people at a noon press conference held at the site.
The conference was called in response to a letter delivered Tuesday to protester and Coven Oldenwilde high priest Steve Rasmussen in which Coleman spelled out his intention to cut down the tree “sometime after 35 days from today’s date.”
The magnolia and the Hayes and Hopson building stand on property sold by Buncombe County to Coleman in 2006. Over the past few months, Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners have each repeatedly appealed to each other to correct the situation. Meanwhile, it appears that Coleman is ready to move forward with his condominium project, saying in his letter that he is applying for a demolition permit to tear down the Hayes and Hopson building.
Rasmussen’s wife, the coven’s high priestess Dixie Deerman, is one of several protesters who has been camping beneath the tree for the past month. Reading from a prepared statement, she said that “we reject Stewart Coleman’s ultimatum and vow to peacefully prevent the destruction of Pack Square’s beloved magnolia tree and the historic Hayes and Hopson Building.”
As part of that protest, the activists announced a “Direct Action Workshop” on Sunday, Aug. 16, to train potential demonstrators, and will conduct nightly “Tree Watch Orientation” sessions.
The spokespersons were vague on actions planned for future protests.
“Coleman’s not revealing all of his strategies, so the less we say about that, the better,” Deerman said.
Tree Watch Orientations will take place at 7 p.m. nightly. The direct-action workshop will be held Sunday, Aug. 17, at 3 p.m. Click below to view a video clip from the rally.
— Brian Postelle, staff writer