Downtown tense ahead of citywide curfew

Downtown businesses board up storefront windows ahead of a third night of anticipated protests. Photo by Molly Horak

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.” 

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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6 thoughts on “Downtown tense ahead of citywide curfew

  1. Jason Williams

    A question for John McKibbon: How many black families do you have living in your faux art deco tower of inequality? How many black people do you hotels employ, and how many are in your upper management? Maybe grab a mirror and start by looking at your own leadership before you start criticizing the city’s leadership.

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    • Richard B>

      That’s it Jason. Let’s simplify matters and just make it another race issue.
      That’s been the problem all along with the Democrats….using poor folk, both Caucasian and
      African American, as pawns by stoking racial strife.
      Now, if you had positioned your comment as a CLASS issue, then perhaps you might gain more credibility.
      The Middle Class, of all races and ethnic groups, has been diminishing in our country for decades.
      Guilty white folk, along with elite white and black ideologues, who live in safe and upscale neighborhoods, have
      been stoking racial strife all the while, in order to hide the real issue…economic class division, while they prosper.

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      • Lulz

        I think they should abolish the police. Do you think women will be out walking the streets in Daisy dukes afterwards lulz? Best way to bring about Sharia is to get rid of police and allow made up laws, many centered in religion, to come about. All enforced tribally AKA the middle east. And the irony of it all is that religious hating leftist are what invoke it LOL.

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      • Jason Williams

        Richard. While I agree that class and income should be talked about when discussing matters of racial inequity in Asheville (especially where black households in the city earn about $12,000 less than the average, and $16, 000 less than the state average: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=10d222eb75854cba994b9a0083a40740) that is not the issue here. While income inequity is a part of these protests, the main focus and also the tipping point is racial bias, police brutality, and racial inequity, which I’m sure you’ve heard from through all types of media sources recently.
        So in my opinion these protests, and the unfortunate vandalism is absolutely race issue, so therefore when someone like John MCKibbon fumes about the city not doing something about this “thug and vandal” problem earlier, it shows a clear lack of understanding, or willful disregard of the underling problems that fueled this nationwide civil disobedience.
        His obliviousness is further highlighted when one takes a look at his “team” https://www.mckibbon.com/about-us/team and finds a startling lack of diversity in the group.
        So no wonder his first reaction to a half a days sandblasting worth of graffiti, is to shift the blame onto the city, who’ll I’ll admit handled things poorly, and not take the mental effort to ponder why his glitzy white tower might be a target for vandalism, and subsequently what steps might be taken to counteract the vitrol lodged at it. McKibbon Hopitality should show themselves good stewards of the community, and increase the visibility of minorities within their company in order to help mitigate the effects of systemic racism, and keep their structures unscathed.

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  2. Johnny to the A

    “…. but those who travel here to abuse our town knowing they will not be punished. ”

    McKibbon must already be campaigning for his next hotel project as those arrested were almost exclusively locals.

    Anyone know if there are any bananas, tampons or water left at the medic station? I want to stock up before the next wave of COVD19.

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  3. Enlightened Enigma

    Wow McKibbon UNLOADS on the NON leaders! KUDOS for this , Mr. K !!! We need many more downtown bizzes to do the same!!!

    Asheville has ZERO leadership and it shows everyday…

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