Over the weekend and last night, thousands of protesters turned out nationwide in order to pay tribute to George Floyd — an unarmed black man who died after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, kneeled on his neck during an arrest last week. The four officers at the scene were all fired, and Chauvin has been criminally charged with third degree murder + manslaughter.
On Sunday, over 200 people came together at Pack Square starting at about 6:00 p.m. to advocate for racial equality. The group marched to I-240, shutting down both directions for a short period of time at about 7:30 p.m. They returned to Vance Monument and then walked onto the Captain Jeff Bowen Bridge before returning a final time to the area around the monument. The crowd was mostly dispersed by 2:30 a.m.
While the protest overall was peaceful, some instances of violence broke out. The Asheville Police Department used tear gas and rubber bullets when protestors arrived on the Bowen Bridge just before 9 p.m. Tear gas was deployed later in the evening as well when the crowd had begun to disperse.
Between those incidents, police and protestors engaged in conversation and police walked with the crowd to and from Pack Square. Sometime after midnight, crowds chanted “Take a knee” at officers, who were dressed in full riot gear. After about 20 minutes of chanting, some officers, including Police Chief David Zack, took a knee in front of the police department.
For much of the night, protestors were on hand to pass out water bottles and milk after crowds were tear-gassed, as well as to help organize the crowd.
Four arrests was confirmed by the APD in a press conference on Monday. No injuries had been reported as of yesterday, but Zack said a vehicle did drive through protestors at one point.
Hundreds of people returned to downtown to protest peacefully in front of the police station, and officers once again took a knee as people chanted around them. At about 10:30 p.m., unknown parties launched fireworks into the crowd, and police responded with tear gas. Multiple fireworks continued to go off and protestors and police tried to put them out. Stay tuned here and to other local news outlets for continued updates.
City leadership released statements on the protests and paths forward for Asheville, condemning police brutality. Chief Zack shared his intention to be transparent and continue efforts to repair damaged relationships with black Ashevillians, and noted that he is planning some major changes for the APD in coming months, including potentially revamping the department’s Use of Force Policy.
City Council and Mayor Esther Manheimer released a similar statement condemning the events surrounding George Floyd’s death and promising to further the city’s work in equity and inclusion efforts.
Now, we want to know what questions you have about the protests or paths forward for the city. What do you want to know? What information can we provide? How can we best utilize our platform to facilitate and elevate meaningful dialogue? You can share your thoughts and questions here.
We’d also love to hear your perspective, especially if you’re a black community member, via our Voices platform, where we turn the mic over to you – our diverse and vibrant community – to share your take on how our community can better facilitate conversations on these important topics.