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Friday, June 5, 2020

June 05, 2020
Asheville police surround a medic station created by protesters June 2.
Angela Wilhelm/

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Police officers' aggressive dismantling of a medical station near a protest in North Carolina on Tuesday has medical staff — and the city's mayor — wondering what the department's strategy was.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer acknowledged the incident, which occurred at 8:14 p.m. local time in a small alley.

"I am aware of the incident involving officers destroying the medical supplies of demonstrators, including water bottles, food, and other supplies," Manheimer wrote. "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," Manheimer continued. "But this was a disappointing moment in an otherwise peaceful evening."

The protest marked the third day of demonstrations in Asheville in response to the death of a black man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.

Video by the Asheville Citizen Times of the USA TODAY Network shows Asheville Police officers in riot gear and holding shields forming a protective circle around other officers who are stomping on water bottles and stabbing bottles with a knife. Other officers destroyed medical supplies such as bandages and saline solution.

'We were thrown, shouted at ... treated like criminals'
Sean Miller, a UNC Asheville student who is head of communications for the medical team, said the 10-12 medics present were all clearly marked as such and were not provoking police in any way.

"(The police) 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 out of the alleyway where we were trying to provide medical support," Miller said.

The incident was "very shocking, very jarring," said Miller. She also said they had a verbal agreement with APD to be present, even after curfew.

Some of the medics had bruises and felt the effects of tear gas, but no one was seriously injured. They did lose at least $700 in supplies, though, Miller said.

At no time did officers give them an explanation for the destruction, Miller said.

By 3:30 p.m. June 3, Asheville Police Chief David Zack and spokeswoman Christina Hallingse had not responded to multiple requests from the USA TODAY Network for information about the incident. A commander on duty the night of the incident, Capt. Jackie Stepp, had no information about the incident.

Glenna Grant, 33, also witnessed the officers destroy water bottles and medical supplies. Grant said she and others had set up the medical center and had not planned to protest, but rather provide a safe space for anyone injured during the night.

Grant said officers "hit them with shields” and took several people to the ground.

“We had eye wash, sutures, EMTs and doctors,” Grant said. “They threw several people to the ground. We were thrown, shouted at, screamed at and treated like criminals. No one resisted.”

Jon Jones, who is also working with the medical team, said police chose to strike down a peaceful operation, and "those actions are inexcusable." He noted that in war situations, it's illegal to destroy medical supplies or hospitals.

"All of those officers took an oath to stand and protect the people, and there's no room for error in that," Jones said.

Jones, who is African American, believes the police were making a statement about who was in charge Tuesday night, the first night of an 8 p.m. curfew mandated by Manheimer. They were "dominating the streets," as President Donald Trump suggested governors do earlier this week, Jones suggested.

He wants to hear directly from the city's police chief.

"The Police Department officers (involved) should be reprimanded, and we should hear an apology from the chief of police," Jones said.

Phoenix's Jeri Williams is one of the nation's few black female police chiefs: She says George Floyd's death was 'disgustingly horrific'

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Video shows police destroying medical station at North Carolina protest; mayor looks for answers