By Kaylee Pearlman
ASHEVILLE, NC- The ACLU of North Carolina has written a letter claiming an Asheville park ban on 14 individuals was in violation of their constitutional rights.
The 14 held a demonstration in December of 2021, organized to highlight the unjust treatment of the homeless, according to the ACLU of NC. The individuals distributed items to the unhoused, including tents and diapers.
The participants were banned from the park and given a felony littering charge. This, according to the ACLU of NC, is a rare charge and those who receive it are banned from the park for up to three years.
Muneeba Talukder of ACLU of NC said the ban of the individuals’ access to public spaces is “clearly a punitive response to these individuals’ exercise of their First Amendment right to assembly.”
Talukder added these participants in the demonstration were not given any notice of their ban from city parks, nor were they provided with any way to appeal those bans.
ACLU of NC claims the ban was either unclear or simply never given to those individuals. Some of the demonstrators have yet to receive notice of the ban from Aston Park. The individuals only saw the ban after reviewing their felony littering case.
The ACLU of NC said because of the “inadequate process of issuing ban notifications, the demonstrators did not have the opportunity to contest the ban.” This, according to the ACLU of NC, is a violation of their constitutional rights.
Sarah Norris is a member of the community who was also banned, and notes how everyone has a right to peacefully organize, especially if the city is not taking care of the residents.
“It is heartbreaking that I can’t walk with my child in our beautiful parks…because my constitutional rights were taken away,” Norris added.
The ACLU of NC asked officials in Asheville to end the park ban.
In addition to the revision of the policy, the ACLU of NC is asking for proper training of the Asheville Police Department and the Parks and Recreation staff about the application of park bans.