Chanting “cops, pigs, murderers,” and “smash the state, burn the prisons, anarchy and communism,” about 40 people gathered in Pack Square early this evening to protest police actions (including the arrest of 11 alleged vandals on May 1) and gentrification. The group marched down near the Buncombe County jail and up to Pritchard Park.
The protest, targeting the “criminalization of youth,” gentrification and police, specifically the APD, was announced through a series of fliers downtown. Though the fliers cited no organization or spokesperson, some of the protesters referenced the Asheville 11 Defense Committee, a group set up to defend the alleged vandals, dubbed the Asheville 11 by some. The 11 defendants’ next court date is Dec. 6.
Most of the protesters refused to give their names or talk to media (“it’s incredibly cold out here, you can quote me on that,” one told Xpress). William Paap, who held a banner reading “why are Cops buried 6 feet underground?”, did talk, however, asserting that “This is how change happens, you can’t wait for it to happen. I’m tired of being locked up for no reason. It’s like this all across the country. You can’t get peace with by pointing a gun at somebody. We all want peace, period.”
One man, on a megaphone, asked the crowd, “who is it that murders and imprisons poor people every day?” “The pigs!” came the reply. Indeed, if the chants hadn’t clued in the passerby, a number of banners made the protesters’ sentiments on law enforcement quite clear.
A number of those “absolute enemies” stood a few feet away, and between seven to 20 cops were present throughout the protest. When the protesters later marched, forensics officers videotaped the scene. The closest thing to a direct conflict came when, shouting “these are our streets!” the marchers briefly blocked the right lane of College Street while heading to the county jail. After some of the police officers instructed them to clear out the road, they got back onto the sidewalk and proceeded towards the fence in front of the jail, where the marchers banged drums, shouted and waved banners.
The protest ended in Pritchard Park, where one man (who, like many of the others, refused to be identified), thanked the protesters for coming out “and showing how much they support the defendants — all defendants — and everyone targeted by the police state, and to show how much they support the right of everyone to share this world, for it not to be privatized and cut up.” He warned them “to be careful, we have very powerful enemies, and a few people who are willing to be bought off by those enemies and turned against us.”