Asheville police chief, mayor respond after officers seen destroying medical station at protest

North Carolina news

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Police officers in North Carolina stomped on water bottles and destroyed medical supplies at a station set up to aid demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd.

Video taken by the Asheville Citizen Times 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 Tuesday night. Other officers destroyed medical supplies such as bandages and saline solution.

Sean Miller, a UNC Asheville student who is head of communications for the medical team, said the nearly one dozen medics present were all clearly marked as such and were not provoking police in any way.

Special coverage: George Floyd protests

“A few minutes after 8 o’clock, we saw a SWAT team coming at us,” Miller said. “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 out of the alleyway where we were trying to provide medical support.”

Miller said the medics had a verbal agreement with Asheville police to be present, even after curfew.

Some of the medics had bruises and were affected by tear gas, and Miller said they lost at least $700 in supplies. At no time did officers give them an explanation for the destruction, she said.

Mayor Esther Manheimer acknowledged the incident and said the City Council was seeking an explanation. She called the incident “a disappointing moment.”

Asheville Police Chief David Zack issued a statement saying his department 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,” Zack said. “Officers also searched for potentially dangerous objects, such as explosives.”

While organizers said they had a verbal agreement for the medical station to remain after the curfew, Zack said it “was not permitted by the city of Asheville and was located on private property, without the permission of the property owner.”

Miller acknowledged that his group inadvertently set up on private property on June 2 without the property owner’s permission.

Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck as he pleaded for air.

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