Protesters want Pack Library benches back

A small group of protesters sat in front of Pack Memorial Library today to call for the city of Asheville to put back two park benches it removed after receiving complaints about criminal behavior in the area.

Protest organizer Douglas Ewen, who volunteers at the AHOPE shelter, sat with Jonathan Scott, a public-relations worker, held up signs with slogans like “Bring Back Our Benches” and “Sitting is Not a Crime.” While they sat, they were joined briefly by other supporters, including homeless and formerly homeless people.

“It’s not just about the removal of the benches; we’re protesting the discrimination against homeless people that don’t have the clout to represent themselves,” Ewen said. “The benches were used by everyone. I would sit here because it’s a nice, sunny spot.”

Ewen said a better solution would have been for the Asheville Police Department to deal directly with crime in the area.

“They need solve that problem: Arrest the drug dealers, fight the crime — homelessness isn’t a crime,” he said. “Basically the solution to the homeless problem right now is ‘out of sight out, of mind,’ take away the benches, the homeless don’t show up, the tourists don’t get disturbed.”

Scott said he hoped to draw attention to a “pattern of discrimination” that he said included both the removal of the benches and driving breakfasts for the homeless out of Pritchard Park.

“They should enforce the laws — if someone’s breaking it, it should be enforced, but to take away the benches that were used by everyone isn’t solving the problem, it’s just displacing it,” Scott told Xpress. “The city needs to find real solutions to the problem of homelessness, not just continue to focus on pushing them out.”

Roger Littrell used to be homeless but now works at the Asheville Renaissance Hotel (“I’ve got food in the fridge now,” he said with a chuckle) and stopped by on his way home to support the protest.

“I knew quite a few people that sat on these benches,” he said. “This is a blind move by the city. They’re a convenience to the tourists that sit down. I’ve sat on the benches down here a lot, just came here, sat down, took a rest, talked to people sitting there. They can say it’s about using drugs, but not everyone that sat here was using drugs. There’s people all over Asheville using drugs, all over the world. They’re not all homeless.”

The city should “really pull together and find a way to get them housing. AHOPE’s done more to get homeless people into homes than anyone else in this city. Even a place where they could pitch their tent safely would be a start.”

About the fights, Littrell said “some communication with the homeless would help. Find out where they really need to go. When you’re in that situation, there’s some fighting. There has to be. I’ve seen people run after the last sandwich. They need to support our missions and the people helping the homeless.”

Adrienne Inez joined Ewen and Scott, sitting and holding a sign.

“Yes, sitting is not a crime,” she told Xpress. “Maybe the city should have consulted or made it known instead of just doing this. I enjoyed these benches.”

The protest didn’t block the sidewalk, and people periodically walked past the group.

Scott later said that even if people weren’t attending the protest, he believed “we’ve raised awareness of [the removal of the benches]” and that more people were becoming “aware of it through the media.”

— David Forbes, staff writer


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27 thoughts on “Protesters want Pack Library benches back

  1. DonM

    Are you nuts? This account of the non-event that occurred (that’s weird to say) today is equivalent to writing a novel about “Here’s a serious account of the absurd”


  2. Douglas Ewen

    Hey Don … why even comment … just want to see your own silly writing?

  3. DonM

    No, Doug, I find it amusing that this “after-action” report on your 2-man protest didn’t give any demographics of the protest. Let me help–you and Jonathan were the crowd that showed up to protest. It was nice weather, too. This is Asheville, Doug, where one can generate a crowd to protest any absurdity at all. Does that suggest anything to you?

    It was about as newsworthy as the proverbial old guy holding a “Repent” sign. How long did you two sit around there? Saw you once just after noon then when I returned just over an hour later, nada.

    This article probably took longer to write than you two stayed there.

    That is all. You may resume your folly now. I can hardly sit still waiting for round two!

  4. DonM

    Thanks for noticing, dave. My solution has been previously supplied–run-off the lifestyle-bums instead of encouraging them to come here.

    Whether criticism is useful or not depends on one’s point of view and one’s proclivity and/or openness to pursue an alternate course in light of that criticism, doesn’t it, dave.

  5. Clocky

    Why do we need benches in front of the library?

    There are lots more benches downtown, including some less than a block away.

    I don’t think we needed benches there. Ever. The people who frequently used those benches can just sit somewhere else nearby.

  6. dave

    DonM-Can you supply me with proof of Asheville “encouraging” them to come here? I think I missed that particular ad campaign.
    Other cities send their ‘problems’ to us, we send our ‘problems’ to them. It’s not exactly a long-term solution. Your so-called “solution” is about the only thing the city has been doing for decades, it obviously isnt working, is it?
    There isnt a single city in America that doesnt have the homeless you speak of. Except Celebration, Florida, of course.
    You can’t make the problem “disappear” by just sweeping it under the rug. That isn’t a ‘solution’, and that is why i call you on it. You arent supplying a solution, you are merely repeating tired, proven-to-be-useless rhetoric. You just think it’s desirable to live in a world where some people have no rights.

  7. DonM

    Sure, dave. The encouragement is the fact that we not only tolerate itinerant, lifestyle-bums but we care for them unlike many other cities. Word has long been out in those circles that Asheville is much more than just a safe-haven. We’ll even aid and abet the lifestyle-bum way of life without any repercussions such as a little personal responsibility in the form of working at something, anything to earn the handouts. That’s just dumb.

    San Francisco PAYS their bums. We need to spread this around so that more may avail themselves of THEIR (SF) hospitality.

    The reason it isn’t working here is because we mollycoddle the con-men and women and require nothing of them.

    I suggest that we require the lifestyle-bums to be productive for their hand-outs. They don’t like that and will “self-deport” to more bum-friendly places.

    And, finally, I believe it desirable to live in a community where those that are able do their share for the privilege of living in that community. That would be here, Asheville. I’ll leave the world to you and other vacuous dreamers who speak in nebulous, grandiose terms and then try to apply them to little ol’ here.

  8. dave

    Can you be more specific at how the city of Asheville “aids and abets” and “Mollycodles” these “lifestyle bums”? I mean, more than vague, abstract, anecdotal evidence. Does the Police Department hand out beer and cookies to them? Do citizens allow them to crash on their couches?

    My guess is your vagueness comes from a theoretical standpoint, and not one rooted in practical experience. It’s easy to demonize and simplify from a distance. It’s harder when you actually interact with humans and recognize the subtleties of specifics and the multiple root causes of problems.

    Your notion of “the hard working America” vs the “lazy bum” is a tired, often-rehearsed polemic that does little but simplify a complex issue and draw divisions around people. You are railing against a very small minority of the street-person population, attempting to make it sound as if Asheville is being taken over by thousands of unwashed, secretly-rich, welfare-scamming, street hustler con-men. In reality, downtown has maybe 10 of these on any given day. And that’s a generous estimate.

    It seems to too much of an assumption that if you ever actually go downtown, you shuffle around in a bubble of fear, unable to interact with any of your community members, for fear they may infect you with some unknown “lazy-bum” disease. I know I’ve never seen your floating quarter-face downtown any day I’ve been there, and i have a feeling I’ve lived in downtown Asheville for a few more years than you.

    Again, I suggest you move to Celebration, Florida.

  9. DonM

    I live downtown. I’m retired. I’m out on the streets each and every day. I know many of the “local” bums by name and the rest by sight. I know who’s not from here, too. I don’t get accosted either because the locals also know me.

    Sounds to me like you really don’t know jack about reality in general and downtown Asheville specifically. It is you, dave, who speaks in vague, theoretical terms.

    Think about it, dave. Think about how utterly wrong your assumptions of me are then reflect how ridiculous your assumptions appear to those who know me.

    I suggest you pull your head out of your posterior and don’t make ridiculous assumptions. But, I think you prefer the view from your navel to reality.

  10. dave

    DonM-I notice you have failed to offer to back up your absurd claim that the city “aids and abets” and “Mollycodles” these “lifestyle bums”. I’m looking for specifics, remember. Maybe photos of these ‘professional spangers’ trading food stamps for luxury cars?

    I have lived in Montford for a good decade now. Served food not bombs for years. Interacted with panhandlers years before you retired to this downtown area. I ride my bike through downtown on my way to work on many, many days. I have yet to encounter the hoards of “lifestyle” bums you now claim to be friends with.

    Your accusations about the validity of my assertions quickly deteriorate into invective, and you rely on personal insults and character assassination so that you can avoid providing the specifics to back up your “Grandiose” claims which I have requested twice now.

    There is nothing of any substance, at all, in your above post. Just assumption and insult.

    Where did you retire to here from, DonM? And why?

  11. dave

    ah, I see now, Donald. By “tolerating these itinerant, lifestyle-bums (and) careing for them unlike many other cities”, you mean we don’t shoot them. Or arrest them for being poor. Great point.

    And what are these tactics that “other cities” employ to discourage the “lifestyle bums”?

    If you say “bussing them away”, then you surely don’t understand that Asheville *does* that, and that it is not a *solution*.

    Perhaps we could privatize the sidewalks and parks, so that anyone not shopping could be arrested?

  12. Austin

    Don, I feel like you are grouping all homelessness into the bum category without really thinking or caring about the myriad of possibilities that force people into homelessness. I personally don’t like being panhandled or stared at like a potential walking bank, but I am still able to find compassion for people less fortunate.
    But to give someone else crap for doing the extremely difficult work of trying to get someone producing in our society. That’s just cold hearted and anyway, who then would be trying to help these people. No one, thats who. And then there would be more bums.
    But I can tell by the way you write that you are quite emotionally tied to your belief, so I digress.
    I can’t tell that there are any good ideas floating around to deal with this, and I don’t have any. I just don’t think people with bigger hearts than my own deserve flack from you. Your posts were actually starting to get pretty insulting, I guess it’s my turn now but I won’t go back and forth with you, just so you know ahead of time.
    Here are your insults in case you already forgot how mean you are, and these are posted to someone who works with homelessness, which makes you look well, fill in the blank…….
    “Sounds to me like you really don’t know jack about reality in general”
    “I suggest you pull your head out of your posterior”
    Oh yeah, where is the rest of your face? Maybe there are two of them.

  13. DonM

    I think we’re through here. You do what you like. I’ll do the same. Fair enough? If you don’t like that, that’s your problem. I’m fine with my position about the lifestyle-bums which is shared by the majority of people who actually live downtown. Check it out for yourself. Try the D.A.R.N. website for starters.

  14. DonM

    I’m only referring to lifestyle-bums. Those who genuinely need assistance get my support, directly and indirectly.

    Those who choose an itinerant lifestyle get nothing from me nor do they deserve anything without an effort to do for themselves. It’s quite simple.

    You’re half correct–I’m emotionally and intellectually tied to my position.

    The previous poster’s condescending tone and irrational hyperbole elicit curt responses from me. There’s no arguing with him.

    I believe I’m aware of who you are from other fora and you are as passionate about old architecture as you are ascerbic about your perceived slights from the “Biffs” and “Buffys” who live in “Misspelled Pointe.”

    Appears as you were about to go there.

  15. Douglas Ewen

    DARN is a joke … they complain about the drum circle … the homeless people … anything they believe affects the values of their homes downtown … very compassionate group!
    The ugly ole lady that interviewed during our protest is a perfect example of DARN members … angry … ugly … hateful .. you must be very proud Don … what that your wife?

  16. Bruce Kennedy

    Interesting discussion. Don, I don’t know as much about these things as you do so perhaps you can help with a few points. What is a life style bum and how does one identify them? Thanks.

  17. DonM

    I don’t know what you’re talking about, there Doug. There have been a lot of rumors these past couple years about the who, what, when, where and why of Drum Circle complaints. I can tell you that they’ve not come from D.A.R.N. Everyone I know likes the Drum Circle and can be found there on every summer evening.

    D.A.R.N. also contributes, through our dues, to helping homeless folk along. You might change your tune if you actually knew any of us instead of assuming things.

    LOL, no, Dougie, not my wife, fool. Mine is one of the most beautiful and nicest women in Asheville, you poor thing.

    Clean up your act, son, and maybe you can grow that business of yours.

  18. Cheshire

    All the name-calling and insults aside, it’s kinda sad to see those benches gone. Unless I’m mistaken, they were in close proximity to the two handicap parking spaces: very useful.
    It was a shame to see the benches become a crime magnet. I understand the need to keep crime down, and therefore the removal of the benches, but it’s sad nonetheless that it came to that. Maybe they’ll get put back after a while. That’s a nasty hill to have to walk up (going towards the civic center) when your legs are compromised.

  19. dave

    Don-You dont speak for “all downtown people”, obviously. That is a very pompous stance to take, for sure.
    Now were done here.

  20. DonM

    Not quite, dave. You wouldn’t want to leave on a falsehood, would you? I never said I speak for “all downtown people,” dave. Read more carefully.

  21. nuvue

    I’m a proponent of keeping the benches. My Mother in law used to sit there till I could bring around our car. She went to the Library alot. Anyway, the benches never hurt anyone and I think it unfair to penalize the many to keep out the few….

  22. dave

    Don-Still no proof for your absurd claims that the city encourages these “lifestyle bums, I see. Opinion and speculation does not a fact make.

    If you spent as much time providing proof as you do with condescension and personal attacks, your assertions might have some credibility, and this ‘discussion’ would have ended days ago.

  23. How about this: WHO CARES! Everything is done for a reason; if its creating a problem then it’s creating a problem. People that are protesting is the problem for Downtown Asheville. Wake up and WORK!

  24. dave

    “People that are protesting is the problem for Downtown Asheville”

    Wow, I never realized protesters were destroying asheville’s livelihood.

  25. HippieJ

    Heres a question for thought, Why was the PUBLIC not given the choice to have or not have the benches removed? If in fact they are PUBLIC benches?

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