On Tuesday, the Asheville police officers stomped water bottles and destroyed medical supplies like bandages and saline solutions from a makeshift medical tent.
Tuesday marked the third day of protests in Asheville, North Carolina, in response to the tragic killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, who was in the custody of Minneapolis police officers at the time. What was an otherwise peaceful protest quickly turned ugly when officers in riot gear formed a protective circle using their shield to allow other Asheville officials to destroy water bottles and medical supplies. Viral videos on social media show officers stomping and stabbing water bottles kept in a make-shift medic tent. Many witnesses revealed that the incident took place mere minutes after the 8 p.m. curfew began on Tuesday night.
1️⃣6️⃣3️⃣ Asheville, NC: police destroy medical supplies and cut open all the water bottles— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) June 3, 2020
Creating a tremendous plastic mess outside of Farm Burger
According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, a makeshift medical tent was set up just a block away from the Asheville police station. Sean Miller, a UNC-Asheville student and the head of communication for the medical team explained how officers suddenly arrived and began destroying medical supplies like bandages and saline solutions. "A few minutes after 8 o'clock, we saw a SWAT team coming at us," said Miller according to USA Today. "They immediately, when they approached, they said, 'We're Asheville Police Department, and you guys need to leave.' They grabbed us by the shoulders and pushed out of the alleyway where we were trying to provide medical support."
Miller shared that she had reached a verbal agreement with APD to remain in the area past the curfew time but even then some of the medics were left with bruises and were exposed to tear gas. Although no one was seriously injured Miller said they lost at least $700 worth of supplies and that the officers didn't even give them an explanation for the damage. 33-year-old Glenna Grant, who volunteered her services as a medic, told the Citizen-Times that she was not there to participate in the protest but to provide a safe space for anyone injured during it. "We set up a medical center so that anyone protesting would be safe," she said.
Glenna Grant expressing her disbelief that Asheville police destroyed their medical tent. pic.twitter.com/dhfJLKu27I— David Thompson (@daveth89) June 3, 2020
Grant witnessed these officers of the "law" destroying the supplies even when no one provoked them. "We set up a triage area to attend to any injuries. We had eyewash, sutures, EMTs, doctors. They [the police] came in full riot gear, hit us with shields, threw several people to the ground, we were grabbed, thrown, shouted at, screamed at, treated like criminals. No one resisted," she continued. Another witness took to Facebook and shared images of the violent destruction. Sharing her experience, Gillian Maurer wrote: APD had told the medics that they were ok to stay there past curfew so long as they stayed in the designated area.
Then, about 10 or 15 min past the start of curfew, a line of riot police closed in and trapped us in the nook we had set up for medic support. They began breaking things, they began physically harassing people. One shoved me against a wall, as others surrounded me and were pushing in on me/ hitting me with shields. The entire time I had my hands up and was stating my intention to leave peacefully if they allowed me to get my car keys. The amount of sheer anger in the eyes of these men as they ignored my pleas was disgusting, to say the least, continued her post.
Asheville Police Chief David Zack released a statement following the incident and provided a flimsy excuse at best. The Asheville Police Department (APD) would always prefer confiscation over destruction. We apologize for not being able to confiscate these supplies last night, he wrote adding that the "supply station was not permitted by the City of Asheville and was located on private property, without the permission of the property owner." Contrary to Miller's statement about a verbal agreement, Zack explained that "The actions involving the supply station occurred following multiple warnings and after the 8:00 p.m. city-wide curfew."
On Wednesday, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer also released a statement acknowledging the drastic measures taken by police officers, reports WLOS. I am aware of the incident involving officers destroying the medical supplies of demonstrators, including water bottles, food, and other supplies, Manheimer wrote on Facebook. Council has asked for an explanation of why that occurred. 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.