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Anti-Police Message Proves Divisive In Maggie Valley

Motel sign for Our Place In in Maggie Valley reading "ACAB, The Barrel Is Rotten."
Cory Vaillancourt
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This sign sits at the center of controversy in Maggie Valley.

Owners of a Maggie Valley motel are getting death threats over a sign disparaging police officers and now a “Back the Blue” rally is scheduled in response. This follows heated and confrontational demonstrations at a pair of Black Lives Matter marches in this small Appalachian tourist community last summer.

 
There’s a strip of Soco Road in Maggie Valley lined with quaint mom-and-pop motels built in the 1960s. Usually the signs out front say things like, “Welcome to our valley” or “Kids eat free,” but last week one of them had a different message – ACAB.

 
The acronym Our Place Inn uses stands for “All Cops Are Bastards,” a saying that originated in the 1940s in the UK but was adopted last summer by some demonstrators calling for racial justice and police reform after the May 25 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

 
Kitty and Cody Currin, who own the motel, explain why.
 

“I don’t believe in judging the individuals themselves. They might be perfectly fine individuals, but once they put on that uniform they’re not just an individual, they are a representative of a system that is faulty,” said Kitty.

 
“When one police officer abuses authority or misuses the trust of the community and 99 other police officers don't stick up or say anything about it, then in my opinion, all 100 are responsible for the misuse of authority,” Cody said.

 
The Currins put up the sign in an effort to start a conversation about police reform, including better training, education and resources for officers, as well as greater transparency into misconduct.

 
“We may not be able to address everything at a national level, but we sure thought that we could start here in our small little town,” Kitty said.

 
Last July, Kitty and Cody took on central roles in a pair of local Black Lives Matter marches as police from Maggie Valley, Waynesville and Haywood County stood between the 30 or so BLM marchers and hundreds of angry counterdemonstrators, yelling and waving Confederate flags. Mayor Mike Eveland called the encounters “chaotic and grossly confrontational.”

 
Since then, the Currins say they’ve been unfairly targeted by the town in a zoning dispute, and through a littering ticket issued over a compost heap.Once the sign went up, they began receiving social media threats.

 
“You’re f-----g dead,” Kitty reads from her phone.

 
Another message threatened physical violence against the Currins and their family. The Charlotte field office of the FBI confirmed an agent visited the Currins to discuss the threats.
 

“We have also been receiving all types of calls,” said Cody. “I’ve received hundreds of calls over the last several days, every hour of the day and night.”

 
Merchants across Haywood County have responded with messages of their own, on signs outside their businesses.

 
“We proudly support our law enforcement, one love, all humanity,” said Robert Edwards, owner of A Holiday Motel, reading the sign outside of his business, located just down the street from the Currins’ motel.

 
“I think that’s a healthier message for representing our community,” said Edwards. “I’m not only speaking about Maggie Valley but our community at large – our collection of individuals that make our country.”

 
Edwards said he’d talked to business owners in Maggie Valley, most of whom share his disappointment over the sign.

 
“It just is a disgusting and divisive message that shouldn’t be tolerated,” he said. “If there is an issue that needs to be addressed, it certainly could be addressed, but a more loving message is healthier for everybody.”

 
A more loving message is exactly what Rev. Chris Westmoreland wants to encourage. He’s lead pastor at Long’s Chapel, one of Haywood County’s biggest churches.

 
“What does God require? What does love require in this culture? In this time where things are so politicized, people actually want to be problem-solvers, they actually want to rise to the occasion of being part of the solution,” he said.

 
Becoming part of the solution, according to Westmoreland, means engaging in a deeper dialogue about police reform. “I don’t think this conversation gets elevated when we try to reduce it to sound bites, and I think a billboard is a soundbite,” he said. “The law enforcement officers that I know want to have a meaningful conversation. They’re begging for those conversations."

 
That conversation may soon take place, as a “Back the Blue” rally has been scheduled in Maggie Valley at the town hall pavilion, just days before the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.

 
On that same day, the Currins say they’ll be hosting a gathering of their own at Our Place Inn, only a hundred yards from Maggie Valley town hall.

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