institutional resistance

Addendum to *Diuvei's Oral History Interview

Diuvei*, the High Priest of Coven Oldenwilde in Asheville, NC, was interviewed for the Origin Story Project on November 4, 2018 at the covenstead. This interview can be listened in full here. He asked me to include the addendum below to provide more information about the activists also arrested in their protest against the Iraq war along with other information about their relationship and interactions with city council and chief of police, will annarino, whom is discussed in his interview.

some of this information is also elaborated upon and mentioned in queen lady passion’s interview which can be listened to here.


“I would like to add more about Asheville Justice Watch, the police-reform group Lady Passion and I formed with other activists following the mass arrest of 47 non-violent peace protestors in downtown Asheville on the first day of the Iraq War on March, 2003, by the Asheville Police Dept.:


Besides Lady Passion and me, there were five primary folks involved:

  • Karen VanEman, Asheville director of ACLU

  • Jerry VanEman, Karen's husband

  • Bruce White, local African-American activist

  • Barry Summers, local government-reform activist & radio host

  • Bruce Elmore, local attorney


We began our public outreach by holding events in all kinds of venues at which we showed the citizen-filmed footage of the protest arrests that we had gathered and edited together. It was not easy to get that footage—this was before the days of cell-phone cameras and online live-streaming. Fortunately, Asheville was chock-a-block with would-be filmmakers who would run around shooting video of anything interesting going on, such as an anti-war protest. Unfortunately, they tended to be very proprietary about their raw materials. 

One erstwhile documentarian who had taken by far the best & most effective footage was determined to hang on to it and make his own movie about the protest, eventually ... till we finally managed to negotiate a copy from him. I remember meeting with him in the middle of the downtown collective household he lived in—a large warehouse-like space where everybody's individual areas seemed to be defined by hanging Indian print cloths, and lots of ears were listening, seen and unseen. Passion and I really had to work our hip Witch activist credentials hard to pierce his suspicion of AJW's motives and obtain the copy that Barry had earlier more-or-less persuaded him to part with. (This was around the time when Barry told us that another suspicious young activist accused him of being an "old, old Cointelpro bastard"—now one of Passion's and my favorite mock insults!!) We had to hide the cassette and smuggle it out of downtown, since we were worried the police might be spying on us. But it was worth it—he had successfully captured the brutality of the arrests.  


Everyone in Asheville who stood up against the conservative cultural & political powers that then held Asheville in their grasp had experienced how Chief Will Annarino and his right-hand man, Lt. (John ???) Kirkpatrick, ran the APD like it was the Stasi. As in all old-school Southern towns, it didn't matter how prominent you were: If you were threatening to upset the apple cart, you were dealt with. 

When we held our largest and best-publicized showing of the video, we invited all of City Council to attend. Only one council member, Brian Peterson, had the courage to show up. Brian—one of the only liberals on Council—spoke at the rally, but disappointed us by expressing merely lukewarm support for our efforts. Even that, however, was apparently too much for Chief Annarino. 

The police began tailing Brian. Sure enough, it wasn't long before they caught him late one night letting a woman who was not his wife into his car. Claiming (without ever presenting any evidence) that the woman was "known to the police" as a prostitute, Annarino used a leak to selected media to accuse Brian of soliciting a hooker. Brian insisted he was only giving a lift to an acquaintance on a cold night. But Annarino worked the media into a froth (despite our efforts at Mountain Xpress, where I worked as a reporter & editor, to point out his ethically questionable decision to send his press release to some media but not us), and the scandal he created destroyed both Brian's political career and his marriage. 

As you can guess, no council member dared publicly support us after that. However, I think Annarino had finally gone too far, because it seemed to me (just a subjective impression) that his retirement not long afterward was pressured behind the scenes.


After consulting with other NC and national cities on their police-reform efforts, we settled on lobbying for a citizen's review board with the power to subpoena. Our efforts culminated in a private meeting between two representatives of AJW, Karen VanEman and me, and City Councilmember Holly Jones at a popular coffee shop on Merrimon Ave. (I think it was called Uncommon Grounds ???) 

Holly, who I believe was the only other liberal on Council, was personally sympathetic to our cause but also a skilled politician. (She later served a long time on the County Commission without scandal—quite an achievement considering the depth of corruption in county government under County Manager Wanda Greene.) She told us that there was no way Council would or could give us the review board ... so, what was our fallback position? 

We were ready for that question: We demanded that input from Asheville citizens be formally considered as part of the selection of the next police chief. The city had never before gathered citizen input before hiring an official, so this was completely novel. But because we had put so much public pressure on Council from so many quarters (see below), they were forced to compromise with us by giving us this concession.

The city kept its word when Chief Annarino retired, and gathered public input during the selection process that led to Chief Bill Hogan's hiring. The public-input process proved so popular—and, I would posit, such a politically useful CYA ("cover your a**") move for city officials—that it was repeated when City Manager Jim Westbrook was forcibly retired over budget irregularities (which, as I noted in interview, were never publicly explained). Ever since then, extensive public input has been a regular feature of the city's hiring of new police chiefs and city managers.


Because we also advocated for internal reform of APD, we gained a lot of behind-the-scenes support from APD officers who were dissatisfied with the corruption and bias that had long permeated the force from the top down. (Believe it or not, Annarino had originally been hired as a "reformer" who was supposed to change this, as I've learned since from news coverage of the current APD scandals.) These included female and black officers who were often harassed and consistently denied promotion despite their qualifications. Eventually we formed a quiet alliance with one of the two local police unions—not the one with "Fraternal" in its name, but the other one—which was represented by Officer Mike Lanning, who eventually became a good friend of mine. (He's now retired.)

One of these disgruntled minority officers (I don't want to identify them in case they are still working there) slipped us a copy of the APD's internal manual, the handbook issued to all officers but kept secret from members of the public and especially from defense attorneys, as Bruce Elmore pointed out. This hefty binderful of numbered policies — which we xeroxed in Bruce's law office and distributed as widely as we could -- contained some fascinating and scary materials. The bit that stuck most in my craw was the policy on use of force. It mandated that any officer filing a use-of-force report was required to charge the person on whom the force was used with assault.

Yes, that's right: If a cop beat you, he was required to charge YOU with assault, even if you hadn't lifted a finger against him. At one point I asked Lt. Kirkpatrick why that policy was in there. He laughed and told me it was a "CYA charge". "What's CYA?", I asked, thinking it was yet another APD TLA (Three-Letter Acronym). See above for the answer he gave me ;-) 

I repeatedly tried to bring this policy to public and official attention -- including when we held a meeting with newly installed Chief Hogan, which was AJW's last organized action -- but without much success. Has it changed by now? I think so, but I'm not sure, since the APD manual is still secret, as far as I know. Chief Hogan claimed to us, I suppose with some justification, that its detailed descriptions of procedures could tip off criminals on how to dodge detection. However, surely many parts of it could be safely released.”

— Steve Rasmussen (*Diuvei)

Asheville, NC

Nov. 28, 2018