Thursday, August 16, 2007

Abuse of Power in Asheville

Yesterday morning at about 9-9:30 am my husband called. This was the usual time he would call after he got to work. He left a little early to do some freeway blogging before he went to work as he had been doing off and on for the past couple of months. He says to me, "Hey, I need you to come pick me up...I got arrested." I laughed at him. We have often joked about similar things especially after what happened recently to another couple in West Asheville. He had to tell me three times before I took him seriously. In his own words, my husband relates what happened:

I am writing to tell you about an abuse of power in Asheville, NC by a police sergeant. I occasionally stand on an interstate overpass near my place of work in the mornings and hold a sign that says 'IMPEACH BUSH / CHENEY'. On Wednesday August 15, I was standing alone with my sign for about 10 minutes, when I was approached by Police Officer Russell Crisp. He asked me how long I was planning to stay there and I told him just a few more minutes because I had to go to work at 8:00. He asked for my ID and I obliged. I asked him if I was doing something wrong, and he said that his Sergeant was on the way and he was going to wait for him. SO, I went back to my sign holding over the interstate. A few minutes later Sergeant Randy Riddle showed up with a paper in his hand. He spoke briefly to Crisp, then walked over to me and told me to put down my sign, put my hands behind my back, and that I was under arrest! I was shocked and almost thought he was joking until he told me again to put down the sign and put my hands behind me and I was under arrest. So I peacefully agreed and he cuffed me. I asked him why I was being arrested, he told me I was in violation County Ordinance 16-2, (the print out in his hand that he didn’t bother to read to me or show me.) He told me I was obstructing the sidewalk. I told him I was not and that officer Crisp had witnessed a guy walk by me moments before. Riddle yelled at me, "You were obstructing the sidewalk!" and "I'm sick of this shit!" then he said, "Here’s your 15 minutes of fame buddy!" I looked back to see his name plate and he said in a mean condescending tone, "Yea, that's 'Sergeant Riddle’ get it right!" He then put me in Officer Crisp's police car. Riddle took my sign with him and I was taken downtown and booked by Crisp.

I was never read my Miranda rights. While at the jail I was asked several times about what groups or organizations I was with, like a local group Veterans for Peace. And more specifically the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action group that had protested at the Bank of America on Monday. I was told by officer Crisp that since that protest the police had pulled out this ordinance. I was searched, and they took pictures of me and my tattoos. Since I haven’t been in trouble in 15 years, I was given a court date and allowed to sign a written promise to appear in court.

This is an example of an American citizen having his/her civil liberties tread upon. In Asheville, you are allowed to protest on city sidewalks without a permit. The sidewalk is about 5 feet wide. I never blocked the sidewalk; I knew about that ordinance already and was not trying to be arrested. It was obvious to me that Riddle had a problem with my sign because there is no way I could block the sidewalk all by myself. I feel like my rights were trampled by this harassment from Riddle. I got the feeling that he was trying to scare me away, but he only strengthened my resolve to protest more!

By the way, I never got my sign back from Sergeant Riddle.

He stood on Haywood Road in West Asheville on the bridge that overpasses I240. At lunch time, after contacting all the local media about my husband's ordeal, I went to the Flint Street bridge downtown to do some freeway blogging myself. Other local activists often use this bridge with 'Honk to impeach' signs. Meeting me there was Barry Summers, co-host of Making Progress: News for a Change on WPVM 103.5FM, a local progressive radio station. I consider it one of the only sources of unbiased news in the area. He brought along a photographer friend. He came to catch it on film if I too were to be arrested. One and a half hours in the hot midday sun later and I had not been arrested. During an interview with Barry, he asked if my goal was to get arrested. I answered him, "No. Our goal has always been to get people to wake up to what is happening in our country and it still is."

At 4:30 PM my husband and I planned to return to the same bridge, on Haywood Road, that my husband was removed from, accompanied again by Barry. Joining us this time was Virato, host of Virato-Live!, and his wife, Dhiraja. Virato has planned a community action meeting at the West Asheville Library next Tuesday at 6:30pm. He will mention it on his show on Saturday.

We will continue to stand up for our freedoms and against the blatant abuse of power in our government, on the local and national level. Please join us!


Susan said...

I just wanted to say thanks for all you do.

Anonymous said...

POLICE STATE CRIMES are to be expected (AND OPPOSED) asa we have returned to this Year of the Pig.

Anonymous said...

This giu Riddle's a real coward. His kids should be ashamed of him.

Anonymous said...

You did a good Job and keep the good work.