After several hours in the gathering cold on Nov. 2, about 60 Occupy Asheville protesters remained near the Vance Monument as ten bells tolled across Pack Square from the top of city hall.
Any minute they could face arrest. Some were nervous, some defiant. A few of them knew they would be arrested this night. They were prepared. Those who remained sang songs and told jokes. They talked about labor struggles, civil rights demonstrations, how to behave when arrested ... lots of things.
Around the edges of the group was a crew of specially-trained volunteers in green hats, the legal observation team. Attorney Curry First has trained 11 volunteers to note when events occur, who said what, the names of people facing arrest, the names of arresting officers, and more. The observers act as the eyes and ears of the public-at-large in case of abuses, or if there are questionable acts. They hoped they would not be needed tonight.
About 10:30 p.m., a police car drove by, the officer appearing not to look in their direction. Protesters started to feel they would be left alone. At 10:40 a lone APD sergeant walked up to the entrance of the Pack Place, looked across the street and walked back towards police HQ.
At 10:49, Lt. Wilke and 10 officers walked to the monument. "Hi, I am Lt. Wilke with the Asheville Police," he started. "It is after 10 p.m. and I recognize your right to assemble, but just not on property in the park. Feel free to move on over to the sidewalk, and as long as you don't obstruct the sidewalk, you can stay as long as you want." Several times he was interrupted by protesters with various chants.
See a slide show of the arrests by clicking on Image Slide Show
A protester asked him what was the difference in 35 feet, from where they were to the sidewalk. Lt. Wilke replied, "That is a sidewalk, not in a park. There is no ordinance covering that, beyond not obstructing it." The distinction seemed lost on the protesters.
The officers left, but returned with more patrolmen in 10 minutes. No officers wore riot gear, there was no show of force, no drawn guns, no drama. Lt. Wilke again asked if there was "anything I can do to get you folks to comply with the law and move on over there to the sidewalk?" His request was refused.
Lt. Wilke turned and nodded to Sergeant Brown, who waved two officers up. They walked over to Matthew Burd, and at 11:09 arrested him. As he was arrested, Mr. Burd yelled out, "I am Matthew Burd and I do not consent to this arrest."
One by one, the remaining protesters were escorted by two officers to a patrol car parked down by the fountain. They were cuffed, searched and put in the back seat. When the car had two, it went off for jail. The last of the protesters, a woman in a mobility chair was arrested at 11:28 p.m.
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