UPDATE: Thursday Night Vigil Goes Off Peacefully

Jun 1, 2020

(Thursday 10:00 p.m.) - Thursday night’s vigil in Pack Square went off peacefully, with protesters leaving as organizers urged before the 8 p.m. curfew went into effect.  

Hundreds filled the square in front of Asheville City Hall and the Buncombe County courthouse to listen to African-American youth share their stories, while a group of black pastors chanted George Floyd’s last words ‘I Can’t Breathe’ in front of Asheville police headquarters.  The speaking ended around 7:30, giving those gathered plenty of time to leave before curfew.  As 8 p.m. struck, a group of organizers loudly urged anyone still out to go home, and almost all complied.  The final few remaining protesters took the names of African Americans killed at the hands of law enforcement and put their names on a marker for Confederate General Robert E. Lee, with a Black Lives Matter sign covering Lee's likeness.

(Thursday 6:00 p.m.) - Pack Square will be the site of a vigil this evening after four straight nights of protest.  Meanwhile, Asheville police chief David Zack apologized for the destruction of supplies at a medic station for protesters Tuesday evening.

The destruction of the station - which included medical supplies and large amounts of bottled water - has drawn international headlines.  Apologizing in a video posted to YouTube Thursday, Chief Zack said the incident embarassed the city and the police department.  "Some may find this message too little too late, and that's fair," Zack said.  He went on to also apologize for a statement issued Wednesday where he said police destroyed the station's supplies because bottles of water had been among the objects that had been thrown at police in protests Sunday and Monday.  

The Pack Square vigil was scheduled to start tonight at 6 after four nights of protests calling for justice for George Floyd and other African Americans who have died at the hands of law enforcement.  Organizers of tonight’s vigil say it will be completed before 8 p.m. when a citywide curfew goes into effect, and are encouraging attendees not to stick around past 8.  Earlier Thursday, a prayer event was held with several black pastors and elected officials.  The Reverend John Grant of Mt. Zion Baptist Church called the death of George Floyd a public lynching, and urged those gather to advocate for change in policing.  "In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends," Grant said to those gathered.  

(Wednesday 11:00 p.m.) - Protests in Asheville saw tear gas for a fourth straight night, this time after marchers left Pack Square.  The scene was peaceful in Pack Square, though National Guard members were more visible.  Around 8:30, 30 minutes past the city curfew went into effect, officers began to clear the square.  Marchers eventually found their way to Patton Avenue, where tear gas was deployed.  Numerous arrests were also seen along Haywood Road.

Organizers of a medical station designed to help protesters moved it to a mobile site Wednesday evening, a day after police destroyed supplies at the station.  Earlier Wednesday, organizers had the station up at the same site on Patton Avenue just down from the Vance Monument.  Two Asheville police officers were seen talking to organizers around 4 p.m., and by 6 the alley where the station had been set up was empty.

(Wednesday 5:00 p.m.) - Asheville police chief David Zack said officers destroyed a makeshift medic station used by protestors Tuesday night on Patton Avenue because bottles of water have been among the objects thrown at officers during protests this week. 

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Zack said police ‘prefer’ confiscation over destruction, and apologized for ‘not being able to confiscate these supplies’ Tuesday.  The statement went on to say the station was not permitted by the city as it was on private property without the property owners consent.  The station contained bottles of water, food, and medical supplies for protesters in case any were injured or tear-gassed.  In contrast to the chief’s statement, organizers of the station said police allowed them to set up Tuesday.  With protesters back in Pack Square Wednesday afternoon for a fourth straight day, organizers re-established the medic station in the same location. 

Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer made her own statement about the incident via a Facebook post Tuesday.  "I am aware of the incident involving officers destroying the medical supplies of demonstrators, including water bottles, food, and other supplies. Council has asked for an explanation of why that occurred," Manheimer said.  "We are a city that cares and I want to thank all of our officers who have taken a knee and worked to protect us. But this was a disappointing moment in an otherwise peaceful evening."

(Tuesday 11:00 p.m.) - Tear gas was deployed for the third straight night Tuesday by Asheville police after a protest continued past 8 p.m., the time a curfew issued by mayor Esther Manheimer went into effect. 

Police waited about 20 minutes after 8 before clearing Pack Square of protesters.  The number of protesters at that point was fewer than was seen on Sunday and Monday, as many had left before the curfew started.  Police actions at they cleared protesters included destroying a so-called medic station on Patton Avenue near the Vance Monument where protesters had placed bottles of water and other supplies to help anyone tear-gassed or injured.  That move in particular infuriated protesters as they drifted away down Broadway, with one woman, who said she was a nurse, screaming at officers for destroying something she said was there to help people. 

Three loud booms were then heard in different parts of Pack Square, as tear gas was used to disperse protesters.  Some marched around the city for two hours before heading home.  Police said two people were arrested for carrying handguns, one for open carrying and one for concealed carrying without a concealed carry permit.  Additional arrests were made for curfew violations, though police didn't give an exact number, promising in a tweet to share that information on Wednesday.

Shortly before the protests began, Buncombe County commissioners held their regular meeting.  During it, they received an update from sheriff Quentin Miller, who told commissioners people from outside the county infiltrated the protests taking place in Asheville.  Miller said one person arrested Monday for throwing mortars at police had an address from Georgia.  Tear gas was deployed by police late Monday after protesters had demonstrated peacefully for more than four hours in Pack Square.  11 people in total were arrested Monday.

(Tuesday 4:00 p.m.) - Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer has issued a curfew starting Tuesday evening for the city, after tear gas was used by police for a second straight day as protesters marched calling for justice for George Floyd and other African Americans who've died at the hands of law enforcement.

The curfew is in effect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night until it is rescinded.  Travel will be restricted in the city.  Residents must stay home except for medical emergencies and ‘acquiring goods or services that are necessary to sustain the well-being of themselves or their families.’  First responders, public transportation and utilities workers, and the media are exempted. 

Statement from Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer Tuesday afternoon announcing a curfew will start in the city that evening

Police fired tear gas after protestors peacefully marched and demonstrated in Pack Square Monday night for four hours.  11 people were arrested according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.  Tuesday morning, grafitti could be seen on the Vance Monument and buildings that surround it in Pack Square.  A handful of businesses also saw windows broken.

Tear gas was also used by police Sunday during an hours long protest that traversed from Pack Square to the Bowen Bridge on I-240 and back.

UPDATE Tuesday 8:00 a.m. - Asheville police used tear gas to break up what had been a peaceful protest in Pack Square late Monday evening.  Unlike the day before, there was no march outside of the square, but that did not stop tear gas from being used a second straight day.

The protest to call for justice for George Floyd and other African Americans killed by police started late Monday afternoon around the Vance Monument in Pack Square.  It slowly grew in size and around 8 p.m., protestors moved further down the square to Asheville police headquarters, where they had been the previous evening.  As they had Sunday, protesters chanted for officers in front of the building to take a knee.  This time, few if any did. 

Around nightfall at 9 p.m., North Carolina state troopers in riot gear with shields replaced Asheville officers on bike as the line of police facing protestors.  Around 10:30, the first use of tear gas occurred.  Clashes with police lasted well past midnight.  The Vance Monument and buildings around Pack Square had graffitti painted on them, and there were reports of broken windows at a few businesses.

On Sunday, Asheville police used tear gas to break up protesters as they were on Interstate 240, where traffic was briefly blocked.  Police chief David Zack defended the use of tear gas Monday afternoon, saying it caused half the protesters to disperse after he reported rocks and fireworks were thrown at officers.  

Monday 4 :00 - Asheville police are expecting a second night of protests this evening as the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police continues nationwide.  On Sunday, hundreds took part in an hours long demonstration that ended early Monday morning outside of police headquarters.  

Asheville police chief David Zack says four people were arrested during Sunday's protest, which started in Pack Square and made its way toward the Bowen Bridge on Interstate 240.  One passing vehicle on I-240 did strike three demonstrators and an officer on a bicycle.  All declined medical treatment at the scene.  Marchers then started to move back towards downtown, and that's when Zack says tear gas was fired as marchers were throwing rocks and fireworks at officers.  Rubber bullets were fired in Pack Square near the Vance Monument after protestors and police clashed around 11 p.m.  The protest continued past midnight in front of Asheville police headquarters further down Pack Square.  Officers in riot gear in a line outside the building took a knee following repeated chants from protesters that they do so, after which the protest began to break up.

WATCH THE VIDEO OF OFFICERS TAKING A KNEE HERE ON THE BPR TWITTER PAGE

Zack says he and mayor Esther Manheimer have discussed whether to implement a curfew as has been seen in other cities.  "We're still in discussion about that right now, but there's certainly the possibility of that," Zack said during a Monday afternoon press conferece with Manheimer and city manager Debra Campbell.   

This story will be updated as events occur