Internal report on APD protest response draws critique

TENSIONS ESCALATE: Asheville Police officers used tear gas during a May 31 protest against racial injustice. Photo courtesy of Ishka Shir

All tactical decisions during Asheville’s protests for racial justice in June — including the use of chemical weapons and the destruction of a protester medical station — were made entirely by Asheville Police Department officers, City Attorney Brad Branham told Asheville City Council on Sept. 8, as he shared his internal review of the events. 

According to Branham’s report, City Manager Debra Campbell directed APD Chief David Zack to “keep people safe” on May 31. With the exception of Mayor Esther Manheimer, who requested support from the National Guard, no member of Council provided any direction to Campbell or the APD during the protests. But determining Council’s culpability in the response, argued public commenters at the close of the meeting, was beside the point. 

“I did a little Googling after I heard the city attorney’s report,” said David Greenson. “I was curious if the Minneapolis City Council had their city attorney put together a report suggesting that none of their members had specifically ordered officers to kill George Floyd. I wondered if they felt it was important to make it super clear that none of these politicians had actually told anyone to put a knee on George Floyd’s neck until he was dead. Because frankly, that’s the only analogy I can think of for the report we heard tonight.” 

Council member Brian Haynes disputed that the events detailed in the report were “facts.” Only Council and APD officers were interviewed; unless Branham’s office reviewed every bit of footage and talked to protesters, Haynes said, calling the presented timeline factual was “less than accurate.” 

Earlier on Sept. 8, Zack had informed Council’s Public Safety Committee that he planned to finalize APD’s own internal report, including any resulting disciplinary action, within the next 90 days. That was too long to wait, argued Council member Sheneika Smith. Instead, she called for frequent updates from Zack while concurrently gathering protesters’ stories.

“We need truth,” Smith said. “Everything hinges on this moment. If this goes wrong, then the conversations to reimagine the police don’t go right. We have a lot to figure out.”

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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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5 thoughts on “Internal report on APD protest response draws critique

  1. Paul Z

    It’s like we have toddlers running the city. I want everything now. It seems any report by anybody wouldn’t appease Haynes, since it doesn’t fit his agenda . I can respect a man who would allow his son to openly sell drugs in a residential neighborhood. And it was enough for the drug task force to notice. Slime alert.

  2. Mike R.

    Fact: Protesters moved onto I-240. Last I checked, this is a really bad place to demonstrate and is actually illegal. APD had to make a choice of letting this nonsense continue and possibly having an I-240 car hit and kill people or get the demonstrators off the highway.

    Frankly, I cannot believe all this questioning about APD’s response to the protests. It seemed measured and appropriate based on the circumstances. No one was killed or really injured. The protesters are the ones that put everyone in harms way, not APD. Chew on that for a minute.

  3. Big Al

    City of Asheville’s response to APD’s handling of violent protesters, vandalism and looting has been pure cowardice and pandering to domestic terrorism. I wish the news of CoA government’s incompetence would get out more so that people can make better informed decisions before migrating here with the intention of avoiding protests and COVID-19. Asheville is turning into an anarchist dump.

    • bsummers

      “Asheville is turning into an anarchist dump.”

      Careful – the TDA might steal that one from you.

  4. indy499

    “keep people safe”

    Sure glad we hired Campbell. That is bold direction and leadership. Apparently adopting the Jackson city manager strategy of never doing anything that can get you fired for as long as humanly possible. No matter how useless you are.

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