Emails shine light on city’s reaction to Occupy Asheville

Xpress has obtained 270 emails from city of Asheville staff concerning Occupy Asheville. The emails reveal law enforcement considering their approach to (and surveillance of) the protests as well as city staff and Occupy representatives debating freedom of assembly, among other things. These emails are available to the public in a searchable database.
photo by Bill Rhodes

Asheville city ordinance doesn’t prohibit handing out political fliers

Earlier this month, the Asheville Police Department arrested Helen Roberts for passing out fliers as part of Occupy Asheville, claiming it violated a city ordinance. The charges against Roberts have since been dropped, and City Attorney Bob Oast tells Xpress that the ordinance she was arrested under only deals with commercial activity — not handing out political fliers in public spaces.

Occupy Asheville protester arrested for passing out fliers

Under a city ordinance banning advertisement “by the distribution of samples or printed matter within the city,” the Asheville Police Department arrested Helen Roberts,an Occupy Asheville participant for distributing fliers at a Nov. 2 rally. Roberts says the fliers she distributed were pie charts endorsing the protest’s positions, and that she was not soliciting donations.

APD employee, city social media specialist suspended after Facebook comments

The city of Asheville has placed Lynn Fraser, a forensic technician employed by the Asheville Police Department, and Melissa Williams, the city’s social media specialist, on “non disciplinary paid investigative suspension.” On Facebook, Fraser called Occupy Asheville protesters emerged yesterday, and Williams added a “LMAO” (“laughing my ass off”) comment.

APD Chief: department takes employee’s Facebook comments on Occupy Asheville “very seriously”

Asheville Police Department Interim Chief Wade Wood has released a statement saying that his department takes Facebook comments made by Lynn Fraser, a forensic technician employed by the APD, “very seriously.” Fraser called Occupy Asheville protesters “dirtasses” and said they needed “a hug … around the neck… with a rope.” Melissa Williams, the city’s public information and social media specialist, who commented on Fraser’s status, has offered her apologies.

APD employee calls Occupy Asheville protesters “dirtasses­” on Facebook ***UPDATED 2:17 p.m.***

In a Facebook post, Lynn Fraser a forensic technician with the Asheville Police Department, called Occupy Asheville protesters “dirtasses” after they complained about police officers recording a march yesterday. In comments on the post, Melissa Williams, the city’s public information and social media specialist, responds with “LMAO” or “Laughing My Ass Off.” In previous post, Fraser also designated Occupiers as a group that “just need a hug … around the neck… with a rope.”

APD arrests four Occupy Asheville participan­ts ***UPDATED 11 a.m. SUNDAY***

The Asheville Police Department has arrested four Occupy Asheville participants today, Nov. 5, for alleged actions on Nov. 2. The charges are resisting public officers, impeding traffic, unlawful assembly and, in the case of one protester, wearing a mask in public. In a statement, Occupy Asheville claims condemns the arrests and claims one of those charged was home sick on the day in question.

City of Asheville seeks community input on hiring new APD Chief

The city of Asheville will hold a series of community input sessions Sept. 8 and 9, seeking input on the hiring of a new chief for the Asheville Police Department. The office is filled by interim Chief Wade Wood, since Chief Bill Hogan retied in May, amidst controversy about missing evidence and the settlement of a harassment lawsuit involving a (still-employed) APD officer.

APD releases details of SWAT team standoff

Yesterday, a short video made the rounds of an Asheville Police Department SWAT team firing into an apartment and advancing. Now the APD has released details of the standoff with Erich Shakir, who police claim barricaded himself inside a North Asheville apartment filled with “a large arsenal of knives, compound bows, dart guns, and battle axes” after fleeing a domestic violence charge. According to the APD’s statement, Shakir was subdued using non-lethal methods, including tear gas and a bean-bag round.

APD looking for suspects in hate crime assault

Early July 14, a group of teenagers, shouting homophobic slurs, surrounded Luke Hankins in the parking lot of the Patton Avenue Ingles; one hit him hard enough to cause three fractures. The Asheville Police Department is looking for the suspects. While the APD has reported the attack as a hate crime, attacks based on sexual orientation aren’t covered under North Carolina’s hate crimes law, so no additional penalties are possible.