ASHEVILLE, NC (FOX Carolina) - Asheville's police chief confirmed Wednesday that officers destroyed some items belonging to a group that was ordered to disperse after curfew Tuesday night.
Below is the statement from Asheville Police Department Chief David Zack:
Transparency and accountability is what our community expects and deserves. As the Chief of Police I understand the concern has been raised over the destruction of water, food, and medical supplies. The Asheville Police Department (APD) would always prefer confiscation over destruction. We apologize for not being able to confiscate these supplies last night.
Over the past three days APD has tried to eliminate objects that can be thrown at protesters and law enforcement. Because water bottles, in particular, have been continuously used over the last three nights, officers destroyed them. Officers also searched for potentially dangerous objects, such as explosives.
The supply station was not permitted by the City of Asheville and was located on private property, without the permission of the property owner. The actions involving the supply station occurred following multiple warnings, and after the 8:00 p.m. city-wide curfew.
Last night, the city-wide curfew, coupled with law enforcement strategies and peaceful protesters, led to no physical injuries and minor property damage in the downtown area.
We care about the safety of the protesters in our community. The Asheville Fire Department and the Buncombe County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are always available, and have been staffed during the events, to treat those with injuries. Both of these agencies have been closely monitoring the protests for injuries. These services can be requested by contacting 9-1-1.
One person who was in the group that had items destroyed shared their experience and said they were wearing clothing that clearly identified them as medics.
Below is how Gillian Maurer described what happened:
I arrived at the stand as supplies were being set up, and began preparing water and saline for eye washing. This was the extent to which I interacted in the medic’s space before police in riot gear approached the space and began pushing into where we were setting up, blocking the only exit. (We were set up in a bit of an alcove between buildings, clearly marked as a medics space, that only had the one exit point). At that point, these police began destroying medical supplies and tables, and I was picked up and shoved against a wall by someone in riot gear. As I was pushed against the wall, other riot cops surrounded me and were pushing in on me with hands and shields. The entire time I had hands up and was agreeing to peacefully leave but could not access my car keys, as they had been in a backpack they ripped out of my hand. I was pushed out into the street, and the response to my pleas for retrieving my keys were met with announcements that we needed to leave if we did not want to be harmed. After pushing medics out, police proceeded to destroy and cut holes in medical supplies so that they were unusable and contaminated with tear gas. After that, I made the choice to remove myself and return home after retrieving my keys (when police left), so I cannot speak to what occurred later on.
I would like to be very clear that I do not have desire for pity or concern directly aimed at my experience- I am white, and despite identifying as non-binary am constantly perceived as female, and had medic clearly marked on my clothing and on the location I was at. I have a great deal of concern around how this kind of militarized approach to instigating violence with peaceful citizens trying to provide medical care leads me to believe Asheville citizens, and especially those who are black and brown, are being put at heightened risk by this kind of police behavior. I strongly believe the focus needs to remain on people of color, and I am much less concerned about my individual experience so much as the danger it puts some of our most vulnerable citizens in were they to be in that same situation. I cannot emphasize enough how much I want the focus of my sharing of my experience to be directed at uplifting people more directly being targeted by institutionalized racism, and I would strongly urge you to seek voices of color in your reporting on this issue.
Maurer also provided video of the damage done to bottles.