Takin’ it to the tree: Parkside protest report ***With photos and video***

The July 15 rally to oppose the Parkside condominium development at Pack Square Park went smoothly beneath the now-famous magnolia tree out side City Hall.

About 160 people turned out for the rally to speak, play music or sit in the shade of the tree that has become a symbol of the sale of parkland to developer Stewart Coleman.

“They’re not going to cut down this tree,” said Clare Hanrahan, who has been mounting a sit-in vigil under the tree.

Several activists who have figured prominently in the Parkside battle spoke from a makeshift podium to encourage protestors to not only express their opposition, but also to take their grievances to the polls in the upcoming Buncombe County commissioners’ election.

“If we can’t hold them accountable before then, don’t forget who not to vote for in November,” said rally organizer Jen Bowen.

Barry Summers, who hosts a show on WPVM and has been at the center of the effort to collect documents related to the Parkside issue, reminded the crowd of the Grove Park Inn’s proposed building near the site, which was scratched after public outcry a few years ago.

“We need to send the message to our representatives to close this embarrassing spectacle and return our park to us,” Summers said. “We beat back this type of development before and we can do it again.”

Despite the presence of two Asheville Police officers and the fact that the demonstration was happening on property that currently belongs to Coleman, there were no conflicts.

Soon after hearing the news of Council’s decision to stand by their position that Buncombe County should resolve the Parkside issue, the rally wound down with a performance of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Click here to see a photo gallery of the rally. Click below to see a video of highlights from the rally.

Brian Postelle, staff writer

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