CHAPEL HILL — Mayhem by a mob of masked intruders who damaged property and blocked access to elevators at the Greenbridge condominium project resulted in three arrests on felony rioting charges and condemnation of the criminal chaos by town officials.
The building’s owners believe Saturday’s brief takeover was the work of anti-capitalist anarchists, who have developed a following in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said Monday that he was appalled by the protesters’ tactics at Greenbridge, a $56 million, multi-use, residential/commercial high-rise at 601 W. Rosemary St.
“The whole thing is outrageous and appalling,” said Kleinschmidt.
“These were not simply peaceful protests,” Greenbridge managing partner Tim Toben said on Monday. “A group of local anarchists wearing masks came onto the property and overturned furniture and broke windows. Three were arrested and face felony charges. The mayor called me today to express his sympathy and promised a thorough investigation.”
The incident started about 2 p.m. Photos posted on Infoshop.org, an anarchist website, show protesters outside Greenbridge waving various sloganeering banners. Those included a red flag bearing a capital letter A written inside a circle — long-established symbols of the anarchy movement — and the words “Total war on gentrification.”
Greenbridge is next to Northside, a traditionally black neighborhood of modest homes on the north side of West Rosemary Street. Those who have opposed Greenbridge claim it is leading to the gentrification of Northside. The building has been subject to bomb threats and vandalism at every stage of its development. Police have failed to identify the culprits.
Michelle Laws, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, which has been a leading critic of Northside gentrification, said she is investigating reports that NAACP members participated in Saturday’s protest.
“We have no interest in protesting at this point,” Laws said. “We did not endorse any kind of protest that occurred.”
When the first police officer arrived on Saturday, he saw 15 to 20 people on the sidewalk facing Rosemary Street holding banners encouraging people to honk if they opposed Greenbridge, Chapel Hill Police Lt. Kevin Gunter said.
“He made his way into the lobby area where he encountered 20 to 30 people,” Gunter said.
“The lobby had been sprayed with that silly foam spray,” Gunter said. “That had caused some damage.”
The protesters had pushed some couches and a table in the lobby to block people from accessing the elevators, Gunter said.
When the officer radioed for assistance, the group left the lobby through a different exit. As they were fleeing, arriving officers caught three of them.
The protest outside the building was legal, and those demonstrators were not detained or arrested, Gunter said.
Police estimated damage to the tile floor of the lobby at $2,000. Damage was estimated at $200 to a bench, $200 to a glass table and $1,000 to antiques and artwork in the lobby, for a total of $3,400, Gunter said.
“The damage has been repaired,” Toben said.
Police charged Karoline Patrice Knable, 26, of 1000 Hale St., Durham, who listed her occupation as an unemployed nanny, with one count of misdemeanor damage to real property, one count of misdemeanor damage to personal property and one count of felony rioting. She was released after posting a $3,000 bond.
The charge of rioting is considered a Class H felony if it resulted in $1,500 in damage. Punishment for a Class H felony is from 5 to 20 months in prison depending on a person’s criminal record.
When contacted by telephone, Knable, who was arrested during a protest in Indiana in 2005, declined to comment, saying she wanted to speak to her attorney first.
Police charged Kyle Daniel Whisenant, 27, of 612 Park Ave., Greensboro, with the same crimes as Knable, as well as resisting arrest. Whisenant, who was arrested during a protest in Greensboro in 2006, listed his occupation as unemployed. He was released after posting $3,500 bond.
Police charged Brian Paul Dingledine, 37, of 209 N. Graham St., Chapel Hill, with damage to real property, damage to personal property and felony rioting. He was released after posting $1,500 bond. He listed his occupation as “author.”
Dingledine, the former lead singer and guitarist for an anarchist band called Catharsis, has written books and Web texts on anarchism. He advocates a branch called hardcore in which he supports stealing from businesses, among other “urban hunting” survival techniques, and resisting employment.