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Letters to the Editor

Silence is a Virtue: Student Interrogated by Police over ATM

by Michael Robinson, guest writer

The ATM’s destruction provoked a wave of rumors on campus. From outraged cafeteria murmurs to late night fireside banter, speculation oozes and ripples across campus about the crevice where students once accessed their money.

It’s understandable that people continue to spread rumors, because such controversies rarely surface to break our academic monotony. I’m sure most students feel personally affected. I can relate to that sentiment. For instance, most people don’t usually wake up with a sheriff’s mustache in their face. Thursday morning was my exception.

I’d like to clear things up. Despite what you may have heard, the cops didn’t question many students and they arrested no one. Given that an unnamed student sent the cops in my direction, I turned out to be their sole prey for interrogation. Mustache cop told me to get dressed, that somehow I was guilty of a felony. He proceeded to drill me on what I knew about ATMs.

I cleared my head and asserted my Fifth Amendment right. I know that even if we’re innocent, whatever we tell the cops can and will be used against us (check out the Supreme Court decision from Ohio v. Reiner), so I let them know I wanted an attorney.

Mustache cop said I was “obviously guilty by my response,” as cops usually do to intimidate weaker-willed silent civilians into giving up their Miranda Rights. Even our own campus police told me that I should talk because “this crime is a felony.”

Mustache cop proceeded to tell me that I wasn’t in Occupy Asheville anymore. When I didn’t budge, he told me the whole story of the break-in. By the way, you would benefit from knowing that cops like to feed you information so it’s easier for you to vomit it back and incriminate yourself.

I simply stared at the floor. Mustache cop proceed to mock me over whether there were many “pigs” where I was from, and then escorted me alone into the hall to pat me down for weapons. He explained that it was so that he didn’t have to shoot me (I must be one of those seriously confused anarchists).

In the meantime, our campus police and the smaller cop rummaged through my boxes, drawers and other personal items. Anyone who’s read the student handbook knows that campus police are only allowed to search a student’s room in the presence of a residential life staff member—preferably the student, too. I suppose that from where I was standing in the hallway I could kind of see into my room.

At this point I was upset. My room is supposed to be a safe space where I don’t have to worry about things like patriarchy and angry police. I decided to make direct eye contact with mustache cop and ask him to clarify whether I was being arrested or free to go. He didn’t give me a straight answer. They never do. After I had asked a few times, he finally insulted my intelligence before telling me he didn’t care if I went to the moon, so I left. It was a week before I slept in my room again.

We can use this incident as a lesson. It’s not my first time being harassed by Buncombe County cops, and I’ve come to realize that if I were assaulted on campus, I would not feel safe going to them for help.

I would feel safe having a campus culture of accountability and respect. Our community is weaker than it should be; assault and ATM break-ins wouldn’t happen if we were to build more bridges among each other.

Think about the last time you’ve stepped outside of your social circle or been there to support someone you disagree with. I only have one thing to say to the rest of you regarding this incident: where do we go from here?



  1. [...] students. The only student that we know of to be interrogated be the police wrote an appeal to the student body to stop spreading dangerous rumors and gossip that could endanger students as well as assist the [...]

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