Just two years ago Asheville Police Department assaulted a black man, Johnnie Rush, who screamed that he couldn’t breath while two officers beat and tased him for jaywalking.
The cost to our community was a $650,000 payout, a severely injured citizen, and a large legal bill. That incident degraded any trust the people had for APD. If police didn’t assault people for jaywalking, we could have put that money towards community projects to help vulnerable people in the city of Asheville. You can watch this recording taken from the body-worn camera of Christopher Hickman on August 25, 2017, at 12:01 a.m. This recording contains violent content and explicit language.
On June 1, 2020, police assaulted a doctor and medical staff working as medics. They destroyed first aid supplies during a pandemic. APD hasn’t learned their lesson. Sean Miller, a spokesperson for the medic group, said the group had no idea why police were acting as they did, using physical force against both the people and their supplies. She said they received no warning. The group was there to provide water, bandages and possibly other emergency medical care to protesters.
Statement from G. Grant
“Please remember how much worse this would be if we were BIPOC. First — we are all safe. The Asheville Police Department just violently tore apart the makeshift triage center we had set up to provide medical assistance for tonight’s protests. We had previously spoken with both Asheville and state police and had been assured that medics would be allowed to remain after curfew in order to provide medical support. I have always fought to see the best in law-enforcement, and believed that there was hope for growth and improvement despite the continuing traumas and murders. After being body slammed, thrown to the wall, and threatened by officers in full riot gear, I’m having a hard time holding onto that belief.”
Statement from C. Alterman
“Asheville PD purposefully tear gassed medics as we were transporting the injured. We identified ourselves as medics. We yelled that we were non-violent and transporting injured to the triage. And they threw the tear gas canisters right at us and the injured person we were trying to transport. This happened at the very beginning of the violence and it continued to happen through out the night. They were purposefully attacking the non-violent medics.”
“I spent most of the night carrying people to the triage. When I identified myself as a medic and said I was non-violent and just trying to get injured people to safety, I got gassed over and over again. They knew we were medics, we identified ourselves, we had injured in our arms. And they threw the gas canisters directly at us. This happened every time I tried to patch someone up on the front lines or tried to carry someone to safety.”
On June 2, Police Chief David Zack provided a statement attempting to justify officers’ actions at the medic station by describing preemptive self-defense against water bottles. “Over the past three days, APD has tried to eliminate objects that can be thrown at protesters and law enforcement. Because water bottles, in particular, have been continuously used over the last three nights, officers destroyed them. Officers have also searched for potentially dangerous objects such as explosives.”
“The supply station was not permitted by the city of Asheville and was located on private property without the permission of the property owner,” he said. “The actions involving the supply station occurred following multiple warnings and after the 8 p.m. citywide curfew.”
On Thursday, June 7, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer posted the following message on Facebook: “Today, along with the city manager and members of the Asheville police department I met with the organizers of the medical team supporting the protesters whose station was destroyed earlier this week. On behalf of the city I apologized to London Newton and (Sean) Miller who have made an enormous effort to fundraise for and organize this needed service. We worked together to make sure they can continue to provide medical services and we offered and they have accepted a reimbursement for their supply losses. This is a first step in coming together. We can do better and we will. And I want to thank (UNC-Asheville) Chancellor Nancy Cable who brought us together to have this important conversation.”
Thursday evening, Police Chief David Zack issued an apology via YouTube, indicating that he was “truly sorry” for how the situation was handled.