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Occupy Asheville Protesters Fight With Homeless

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Demonstrators with Occupy Wall Street continue their protest at Zuccotti Park in New York on Oct. 21, 2011. (credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Demonstrators with Occupy Wall Street continue their protest at Zuccotti Park in New York on Oct. 21, 2011. (credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) — The Occupy Asheville movement may be faced with a new opponent that represents a different kind of 1 percent — homeless people.

On Friday, a homeless man threatened to fight members of Occupy Asheville, harassing women with inappropriate comments and also spraying a soda at protesters before being arrested. The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that the man was arrested for assault and making threats.

Asheville police responded to the scene around 5:30 a.m. Friday, arresting the homeless man for the alleged assault. Protesters accuse the homeless man of keeping Occupiers up for six straight hours when they were attempting to sleep, even bragging about a bike he allegedly stole from the camp. It does not appear the man was a part of the Occupy Asheville movement.

The incident came just days after Asheville leaders forced the Occupiers to move from their original protesting position, which led them to a spot in front of the Federal Building. Asheville Police Lt. Wallace Welch told CBS Charlotte that although he doesn’t know if the arrest will be an isolated incident, the group’s presence could determine if there will be future interactions.

“As long as the Occupy folks want to set up in camps in the public spaces in the downtown area, there’s certainly going to be an amount of animosity and interaction with the homeless people,” Welch said. “I’m not sure if it is going away. Hopefully, we can minimize it as best we can.”

There were no follow-up incidents over the weekend as a festival seemed to “swallow up” the Occupiers, including the potential for any further incidents, Welch said.

The Asheville incident involving the homeless is a new wrinkle during a time when Occupy movements worldwide are beginning to see more resistance from local police and government officials, citing the increases in cost and demand for public safety.

The city of Asheville, however, seems at least somewhat prepared for the Occupy protests, no matter how long they may go. Given that Asheville is considered more of a liberal city, police interact with leaders of the movement to at least minimize any potential negative interaction, giving the group more leeway to protest, Welch said.

But there is uncertainty as to if the upcoming winter weather could play a role in minimizing activities on resources that are, admittedly, becoming somewhat drained from the Occupiers.

“Is the manpower drained? It is,” he said. “Even on a small scale, over time it can add up substantially.”

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