Downtown Asheville braced for the potential of continued unrest on Tuesday evening, just hours before a new city curfew will go into effect. Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer declared a citywide state of emergency on June 2 and announced a curfew prohibiting individuals from gathering or demonstrating on any public street, sidewalk or other public property from 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. for the indefinite future.
The Asheville Police Department has requested assistance from the National Guard, as well as local, state and federal resources, said Polly McDaniel, the city’s spokesperson, citing a statement on the APD’s Facebook page. Those cited for violation of the curfew will be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Prosecution and criminal penalties will be determined by the county District Attorney’s office and the court system, explained City Attorney Brad Branham in an email exchange with Mountain Xpress.
Tensions were high as downtown businesses prepared for another night of anticipated protests. Business owners and construction workers stood on the sidewalks, hanging plywood over storefront windows. Police officers milled about, scanning the crowded sidewalks as onlookers checked out the damage from the June 1 protest.
John McKibbon, an owner of the Kimpton Hotel Arras, announced he was “very mad” about the destruction to the property during a June 2 press conference. McKibbon stood at the corner of Lexington and Patton avenues — the site where a new sculpture, commissioned by the Arras, was soon to be installed. Instead, he announced that the wall, which was covered in graffiti during the June 1 protests, will be left as a “testament to what has been allowed to take place.”
“The issues of this week did not start two days ago but began many, many months ago when the leadership refused to take steps to deal with vagrants disrespecting our downtown,” McKibbon stated. “To be clear, I am not talking about the homeless, but those who travel here to abuse our town knowing they will not be punished. Now vandals, not protesters, have been allowed to destroy our downtown without consequences.”
“When you are in a crisis, we expect our leadership to rise to the occasion, but until today, that has not happened,” McKibbon continued. “Concern for criticism allowed the vandals and thugs to run amuck last night, and now you see the results.”
But in the early evening, with the curfew looming , a steady stream of protesters, carrying hand-lettered signs, backpacks and water bottles made their way to Vance Monument, where a crowd was assembling to protest the killing of George Floyd and racial violence at the hands of police.
Any individual out after 8 p.m. will be arrested, the APD announced.
“If an explosive device is directed toward law enforcement, or protesters, law enforcement will respond with tear gas and pepper balls,” APD said in its statement. “If any individual attempts to pick up or cover a tear gas canister, law enforcement will respond with additional tear gas and pepper balls.”