From Staff Reports- In a press release entitled “The Gauntlet” a group of local political activists are moving forward with a lawsuit over the city’s handling of the crowd control at the Trump Rally on September 9 at the U. S. Cellular Center in Asheville.
“In the lawsuit, I have two attorneys and they’re from out of state,” said Chad Nesbitt who is spearheading the effort to get answers into the controversial handling of the crowd control at the event. “They are still looking into [it]…They’re putting everything together to let me know if I want to go forward with what they’ve got planned. So that’s what I’m waiting for.”
He is also sending a letter to Buncombe County Emergency Management Director Jerry VeHaun about the matter. “I’m sending a letter to Jerry and I’m looking forward to what he has to say about it because the buck stops with him. The attorneys want to see what he says about it as well.”
According to the release the effort is “An attempt by concerned citizens to address public safety violations by city officials.” Specifically, the group is concerned that barriers erected to keep rally goers and protesters were removed turning the area outside the center into a “gauntlet” for attendees of the rally when they left.
The results of the removal of the barriers was pushing, shoving, spitting and a dangerous situation, indicates the release. The questions the group, lead by Dr. Carl Mumpower and Nesbitt, who is former Buncombe County Republican Party Chairman, are looking to have answered are:
• Why were 6,000 attendees at the U.S. Cellular Center Trump rally forced to endure a gauntlet of hate upon entering and exiting the event?
• Why were the protestors allowed to verbally abuse (curse), assault (through physical touch and intimidation tactics), and threaten (through gesture and spoken word) the attendees (in clear violation of city and state ordinances) without arrest?
• Why were the crowd control barriers allowed to be shifted before the end of the event so that exiting attendees were forced through a highly constricted and volatile protester group resulting in an impaired exit and jeopardy for those attempting to leave the venue?
“It is our position that city authorities violated North Carolina’s Egress Laws and ignored city ordinances and subsequently attempted to conceal their error,” says the release. “It is our further position that the media has been complicit in that cover-up by focusing on decoy issues and otherwise ignoring realities at the event.”
To make their case the group cited NC EGRESS 1028.2 – “Assembly Main Exit” Group A occupancies and assembly occupancies accessory to Group E occupancies that have an occupant load of greater than 300 shall be provided with a main exit. The main exit shall be of sufficient width to accommodate not less than one-half of the occupant load, but such width shall not be less than the total required width of all means of egress leading to the exit. Where the building is classified as a Group A occupancy, the main exit shall front on at least one street or an unoccupied space of not less than 10 feet (3048 mm) in width that adjoins a street or public way.”
Pictures that accompanied the press release clearly showed that the law was not followed by city officials.
The group’s release also cited the city’s profanity law. “Asheville Municipal Code – Sec. 11-9. – Profanity in public. No person shall engage in loud or boisterous cursing or swearing in any public place in the city.”
The release used one woman’s profanity laced chant as a example. The release said she repeatedly said ‘F—K Donald Trump’ over and over and laid hand on attendees – with no consequence.” A video seen on Facebook backs the groups claim. The woman can be seen intentionally bumping into a rally goer and an Asheville Police Officer had to step in and told her if she did it again she would be arrested. She continued her profanity.
To also back their claims of abuse by protestors the release contained numerous statements by rally attendees to the fact of the chaotic events at the rally. (see testimonies below).
Eye witness testimony of events
Editor’s note: Warning, graphic language will be found in this article.
Toni Hudgins Grant – I was yelled at by two young guys not old enough to vote, inside right after Mr. Trump left. I had to get a secret service man to get them away from me. Then as we exited the doors one guy was standing on the side and grabbed my friend’s arm. I also saw a whole task force of what looked to be police come out from behind a curtain in the hallway where all of us were packed like sardines waiting to get out front. They all lined up and went the other way. I never saw them anymore after that.
Jean Smith – I was so excited getting to go see our next President; my 80 year old aunt drove in from Tennessee to go with me. As we got closer to the door the protesters were right on top of us shouting f*** you and putting their hands in our faces, even though my dear aunt was on a cane and suffered from heat exhaustion from standing in line to get in. Like two young school girls we were in awe of Mr. Trump. On our way out the protesters were allowed up at the doors screaming and threatening to the point it was frightening. I reached a sidewalk, started to step up and I was pushed on my right arm (which I have been having therapy on for last month) shoved back onto pavement and told, you are not stepping on this sidewalk as long as you are a Trump supporter, we don’t care how far you have to walk. I’m 67 and have numerous health issues. The saddest part is I was born and raised in Asheville and I’m ashamed of these protesters.
Shelia Bradley Surrett – I was with Trump’s people; I was still scared walking out. At the Raleigh Trump rally I attended, the protesters had to stand far away across the street.
Marcia Stott Ballard – Accurate representation (video) of what happened really does a good job of capturing the mood. Young people are SO easily led astray into bad decisions. This was shot as people were entering the building. At this moment, there was no Law Enforcement between the protesters and those in the line entering the building. The girl in the white t-shirt is SO irritating, isn’t she? The number of protesters was MUCH higher as we exited the building.
Pat Slingerland – They were right in our face when we came out!! Not enough open doors!! Terrible language and etc… should have been held back across the street!! Should have been arrested on multiple charges!! Disturbing the peace!! Terrible language!! Vulgar displays!!
Whitney Walsh Yoder – My boys went and I’m glad they did. It was a great lesson in our government, its process and our civil rights. It gave them a firsthand view of how vile some people can be concerning the desire to remove freedoms from others. They came home telling me that the protestors did no favors for Hillary Clinton, and if that is what she is promoting they would never want anything to do with her.