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Opponents of APD’s $1M request pack hearing; demand spending elsewhere
Friday, 02 June 2017 11:17

From Staff Reports

Asheville City Council chambers were filled to overflowing May 23 with a big and vocal crowd opposing additional funding for the hiring of 15 new police officers.

A $1 million request, sought by Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper, would finance the addition of more officers with the aim of reversing the 17 percent jump in violent crime, mostly in the downtown district.

In response, activists, protesting under the slogan of “$1 Million for the People,” say the funds, instead, should go to public transit or anti-poverty programs.

The hearing on the APD issue lasted more than two hours, as mostly opponents — and a few proponents — voiced their viewpoints, often passionately. The hearing was the last opportunity to comment on the budget before council’s vote on June 13.

Among the speakers, the Rev. Amy Cantrell, the protest organizer, told council that she is giving it a petition — with 903 signatures  “and climbing” — that says “we need more community. That community creates safety, and not expanding police.”

Referencing the larger national debate over police racial bias was Dewanna Little, a black resident, who said, “We (African-Americans) are the ones who police stop, walking down the street.

Other speakers assumed more confrontational stances, with some questioning the role of police in society. Others questioned the basic structure of Asheville’s government.

One speaker read aloud a long description of the “pig,” as a species. (“Pig” also is a derogatory reference to police.)

Another opponent to the police hiring read an analysis of policing as a tool of state violence that included references to German philosopher Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). Engels also was a revolutionist and social theorist — and, with Karl Marx, was the cofounder of modern socialism. 

Jake Swett said the gathering represented workers’ growing dissatisfaction over low wages and what he called a lack of government transparency. 

“There’s a lot more of us than of them, or of you,” Swett told council. “We’re starting to organize. If we don’t start to see real sustainable change in our government here, I can’t even speak to what will happen.”

Despite Mayor Esther Manheimer’s requests for citizens to refrain from applauding at the meeting, the crowd cheered loudly on occasion.

Dee Williams, one of two black candidates for council, said during the hearing that policing is based on historic oppression, and that that needed to change.

“Modern policing is no more than compilation of, let’s face it, slave catching and protection of property that folks who are landed gentry own,” Williams asserted.

Two other council candidates who spoke included transit activist Kim Roney, who opposed the new police funding, and South Asheville resident and municiopal budget specialist Vijay Kapoor, who said there needs to be more clarity about how the city is going to spend the $74 million in voter-approved bond borrowing.

Among the few citizens and leaders of police labor groups who spoke in favor of the APD expenditure was Rondell Lance, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. Lance said anti-police sentiment expressed at the hearing was unfair, “Believe it or not, these people in the police department love the city... They will come and lay down their lives for you.”



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