A group of vandals dubbed the “Asheville 11” once again grabbed headlines last week. In the ongoing wake of a May 1 downtown vandalism spree that resulted in damage to several locally owned businesses, about 40 people gathered on Dec. 1 to support the suspects and protest the the Asheville Police Department.
In the online post “Anarchists March in Protest of APD, Gentrification,” Mountain Xpress reported that the protesters chanted “Cops, pigs, murderers!” and “Smash the state, burn the prisons, anarchy and communism!” as they marched through town. They also carried banners proclaiming “Police are the absolute enemy,” “Free all prisoners! Jail all cops!” and “We love the Asheville 11.” Although a number of those “absolute enemies” accompanied the protesters, the march was free of direct conflict and there were no arrests.
Xpress also reported last week that an “Anarchist Group Claims Responsibility for Department of Corrections Vandalism.” According to police reports, vandals slashed the tires of several vehicles and painted slogans such “Burn Prisons” on the DOC building on Nov. 24, inflicting about $3,000 worth of damage. Subsequently, a member of the group anonymously posted a message on the Anarchist News website asserting, “In a world dominated by these institutions and saturated by police, we did this to show that we will not be neutralized and that it is absolutely possible and imperative that we fight these motherf**kers.”
In response, APD spokesperson Melissa Williams said, “We can’t comment on possible motives or potential suspects as the investigation is ongoing in our Criminal Investigations Division.”
In another unusual crime incident, the APD says it made an arrest last week as part of an investigation into a Nov. 17 armed robbery in a Montford rental property.
According to the Xpress online post “APD Makes Arrest in Pre-Thanksgiving Home Invasion in Montford,” the crime began when a friend of the household entered the home and was followed inside by two unidentified, armed men with bandanas covering their faces.
“I was absolutely terrified,” said one of the residents, who’s since moved out of the home because of the incident. “I have never had a gun to my head before, and my hands just immediately went up in the air.” The victim said he and his roommates were ordered at gunpoint to get onto the couch while the men robbed the home of electronics and other valuables assessed by police at $5,000.
Eagle (pose) vs. the bear; cougars move to WNC
In a vastly different kind of dangerous conflict last week, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that “Woman Credits Yoga With Saving Her From Bear Mauling.” According to the column by Susan Reinhardt, Henderson County resident Ruth MacNair’s recent routine jog through the woods “turned into a hellish nightmare” that left her “bloody, hysterical but otherwise intact.”
MacNair apparently escaped an agitated black bear’s attack by climbing a small poplar tree and “twisting her body into a yoga move called eagle pose, wrapping her limbs around the trunk.” After the bear repeatedly “gathered speed and rammed the tree with her massive girth,” it eventually lost interest, and MacNair was able to climb down and run to safety.
In another less scary animal-related story, the Citizen-Times reported that “Cougars Find Home at WNC Nature Center.” After a short stay at the Oregon Zoo, the twin orphaned cougar cubs were transferred to their new, permanent home at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville this fall.
“We’ll be working with them over the next few months to get them integrated into the new exhibit and get them used to people coming by,” explained Diane Ruggiero, the city’s superintendent of cultural arts. “[They’re] the cutest things ever.”
The cougars are expected to go on public display sometime this spring.
Cold, rain and snow
The wet weather was another major story last week, with BlueRidgeNow reporting that “Floodwaters Wreak Havoc in WNC.” According to the National Weather Service, the severe storm dropped 8.5 inches of rain in Rosman, 7.63 inches at Lake Toxaway, 6.8 inches in Hendersonville and 4 inches in Asheville, making Nov. 30 the rainiest day on record for the month. The downpours flooded creeks and rivers, causing dozens of road closures, and the Transylvania County Schools endured a two-hour delay. Flooding also overwhelmed Flat Rock’s sewage-pumping station, causing some 3,500 gallons of wastewater to spill into an unnamed tributary of Meninger Creek.
Since then, WNC has faced an unusual cold spell for early December, with below-average temperatures expected to continue through much of the week, according to Ray’s Weather Center.