Black Lives Matter

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Black Lives Matter protests across the nation have sparked rallies in support of law enforcement.

 

Hundreds turned out for the Back The Blue Rally hosted in part by Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland. 

 

“We have people here from Jackson County, Macon County, Swain County, Clay County. We have people from all over who came out here to support us,” explains Holland.

 In the crowd you hear someone yell: “Andrews.”

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Guns have been present at most protests and demonstrations across Western North Carolina in the last two months.   That included a rally for President Trump and the Second Amendment last weekend in Bryson City. 

 

A North Carolina General Statute lists protests as one of many events where it is illegal to open carry a firearm.  

 

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Artists on Sunday completed a mural that spells out 'Black Lives Matter' in Pack Square around the now shrouded Vance Monument, which sits near where historians believe enslaved people were sold prior to the Civil War.

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The town of Sylva has seen its share of vigils and marches following the death of George Floyd.  The most recent over the weekend focused on the Confederate monument that overlooks downtown. 

Traffic backed up along the detour route Saturday as two separate demonstrations set up – one seeking the removal of the statue of a Confederate soldier on the old Jackson County Courthouse steps, and the other wanting it to stay. Demonstrators who want the statue, known as "Sylva Sam," to keep its perch met in a parking lot behind the Old Courthouse.

Jarret Porter

Three men have been charged for carrying firearms in downtown Asheville on June 21 at a demonstration, according to the Asheville Police Department.  

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Jackson County commissioners will discuss the future of the statue of a Confederate soldier on the old courthouse steps in Sylva next month.  

Commissioners held a meeting on Tuesday which included a conversation about “diversity and inclusion” which centered around the statue which stands on the old courthouse steps. About ten people spoke during public comment in support of the statue's removal at the afternoon meeting. 

One resident was Christina Sutton, who identified herself as an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 

Cass Herrington / BPR News

The phrase “Defund The Police” could be seen from the skies on a street outside the Asheville Police Department Sunday. A group of artists and activists assembled to paint the bright yellow letters -- and a few hours later, they were met by counter protestors with blue paint. 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Protests in the rural towns of Western North Carolina for racial justice are growing into a movement.

 Molly Haithcock, 24 and Erykah Lasha, 22, didn’t know each other until a few weeks ago even though both went to Franklin High School. Haithcock, who identifies as a black woman, says she was sickened by the killing of George Floyd and wanted to do something - anything: 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Anti-racist and Black Lives Matter marches haven’t being occurring in just large cities.  Small towns in the most rural parts of North Carolina have seen them too.  BPR was at one in the westernmost end of North Carolina Thursday night: 

 

Hundreds gathered in Murphy to support Black Lives Matter and remember the life of George Floyd.

 

“No Justice, No Peace. No Justice, No Peace...” 

 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Two demonstrations this week in Sylva remained peaceful. But rumors continue to swirl that weapons were present at each. BPR spoke with Sylva’s Police Chief: 

 

Police chief Chris Hatton says rumors are rampant right now. 

 

“I have been on rumor patrol for three days,” says Hatton. 

 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

 A group of mostly students from Western Carolina University led a peaceful protest Tuesday afternoon in downtown Sylva.

Over a hundred people gathered at the old Jackson County courthouse steps calling for justice for George Floyd and protesting against racism. Organizers say that there were about 300 people. 

You can hear the crowd chanting, “Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter…” 

Local business owner Natalie Newman spoke to the group over a megaphone. 

Illustration by Omileye Achikeobi-Lewis

 

 

The recent death of George Floyd, as well as countless other officer-involved killings of African Americans, bears a significant cost to the mental health of black and brown communities. One clinical mental health counselor in Asheville says part of the solution starts with mindfulness. 

Lilly Knoepp

Protests ignited in cities large and small across North Carolina this weekend over the death of George Floyd.  BPR was at a vigil in Sylva.

A large crowd gathered at the bottom of the Jackson County Courthouse steps for a candlelight vigil around the fountain on Sunday evening. The event was organized by the local NAACP chapter and Indivisible. 

The group stood in silence for 45 minutes.  Then Pastor Jo Schonewolf from Whittier United Methodist Church gave a benediction focusing on the children at the vigil. 

Matt Peiken | BPR News


It’s a Saturday afternoon at the Arthur Edington Center in Asheville’s Southside. Two teenage girls are interviewing a woman named Charlotte, recording her observations and experiences growing up in this neighborhood.

“What changes have you seen in your community?”

“Well, changes I have seen ... Greens is a lot different from when I was back as a kid, when Mr. Green was alive …”

Youth of color are collecting stories from adults of color from this neighborhood through a project called Southside Stories. The stories are taking the form of video, audio, photography and visual art. Once the teenagers have collected and edited the stories, they’ll present them at a public showcase 4:30pm June 15 at the Edington Center.