by Carmen Ramos-Kennedy –
For fairness and justice for people of color in Asheville the month of May was both healing and disappointing.
The Asheville-Buncombe County NAACP’s Criminal Justice Committee has worked for more than a year to push the Asheville Police Department to require written consent to search persons driving a vehicle or walking.
On May 22, 2018, in partnership with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the local Branch of NAACP presented to Asheville City Council statistics on APD traffic-stop rates that show the worst racial disparity in the state for a city of its size and population. After the presentation, Council voted 5 to 2 to direct the City Manager to move forward on developing a written consent-to-search directive.
Written consent-to-search forces police to inform citizens of their right to say no to searches (while operating a vehicle or walking), make it more difficult for officers to engage in abusive search practices, and can help drive down search disparities between black and white people. It does not prevent law enforcement from doing probable-cause searches or searches with warrants.
One council member found the process of arriving at the vote unsatisfactory and indicated there had not been enough time to properly make an informed decision and public comment. That was extremely disappointing given that there have been more than a dozen meetings open to the public with one or more council members present, along with public discussions, information sent directly to Council members, and media coverage for more than a year. The Asheville Buncombe County NAACP finds it a bit implausible that anyone tuned in to the policing of our city could not be knowledgeable about this issue.
We applaud the vote by the five “pro-justice” council members, Mayor Esther Manheimer, Brian Haynes, Julie Mayfield, Sheneika Smith, and Keith Young. Show your support with an email or phone call to the city. Share your approval and give them a big thank you! If you do not agree with the position individual officials have taken, please be polite in letting them know about that disagreement. Personal attacks and profanity are counterproductive and pointless.
Listed below are the email addresses for all members of City Council and the phone number for the City Manager’s Office:
- Mayor Esther Manheimer – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler – email@example.com
- Councilman Brian Haynes – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Councilman Vijay Kapoor – email@example.com
- Councilwoman Julie Mayfield – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Councilwoman Sheneika Smith – email@example.com
- Councilman Keith Young – firstname.lastname@example.org
- City Manager’s Office – (828) 259-5604
There will be only one meeting of City Council in June, on the 19th. It is essential that all of us attend this meeting, as the agenda for Old Business will again include written consent-to-search. Sign up to make public comment. To learn more about the last meeting, and to see the agenda for the June 19 meeting, go to ashevillenc.gov/council/meeting_agenda.htm.
Our thanks to the all-volunteer Code for Asheville for shedding sunlight on how our local government works. They are partners with NAACP in analyzing the data from traffic stops and other data about policing, and engaging with the city to make it happen. With a unanimous vote at May’s Council meeting, CFA’s request for access to data from the city was approved. Knowledge is power.
Muchas gracias to BeLoved Asheville for their outstanding service to the community supporting immigrant families in the recent ICE crisis. They continue to unselfishly surround families with love and much-needed food and other resources. BeLoved Asheville is a model of what helping each other and “loving thy neighbor” should look like.
After much planning, including hosting of the project by Land of the Sky United Church of Christ, BeLoved is starting to clear the land to build the future BeLoved Tiny House Village. If you can help with preparing the land or have other building skills to offer, go to belovedasheville.com to learn about other opportunities. You can also support this cause by making an online donation at: youcaring.com/tinyhousevillageasheville.
From the NC General Assembly word is that another attempt at a Draconian Voter ID Law will be made very soon. There seems to be no end to their flagrant attempts to block the right of North Carolinians—especially people of color, students, and seniors—to vote unimpeded. Once again this battle will be fought in the streets, at the ballot box, and likely in the courts, in coalition between the NAACP and Democracy NC.
Meanwhile, we must keep registering voters across the state. The NAACP needs volunteers for this effort at several venues over the course of the summer. Contact Carmen at 4ward2getherCall2Action@gmail.com. Stay woke and stay tuned!
Our branch will have its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary of Hill Street Baptist Church, 135 Hill Street, Asheville 28801.
The Asheville-Buncombe NAACP, Branch #5363, meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month in the Sanctuary of Hill Street Baptist Church, 135 Hill Street in Asheville. For information: 4ward2getherCall2Action@gmail.com; Buncombe County NAACP, PO Box 2881, Asheville, NC 28802; facebook.com/buncombecountynaacp.