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Local representatives, organizations respond to protests, violence at Capitol Hill
Rep. Foxx tweets she's safe as protestors roamed the halls

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ashe County representatives and local party leaders are condemning the violence that broke out on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.

Philip Lewis, a senior front page editor at the HuffPost, tweeted out a video of protestors pushing and shoving past Capitol Hill police officers to get to the building.

Earlier that day, President Donald Trump held a Stop the Steal rally with his supporters where he claimed the 2020 election was fraudulent and urged them to march to the Capitol building where they showed up en masse as Congress was voting to certify the presidential election.

Trump tweeted out at 3:13 p.m. to “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

The Associated Press reported at 3:30 p.m. that Senators were evacuated and people were told to shelter in place and don gas masks after tear gas was deployed in the Capitol Rotunda. One person was reportedly shot at the Capitol according to the AP.

Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, tweeted at 3:30 p.m. that the National Guard was on its way to the Capitol at the direction of Trump.

At 4:15 p.m., Trump tweeted out a video talking to his supporters and telling them he knows their pain, but “we have to have law and order.”

“This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” Trump said in the video. “We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”

Early in December, the AP reported that Attorney General William Barr said U.S. Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, who represents North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District including Ashe County, was at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“Violence like what we’re witnessing in the United States Capitol is unacceptable,” Foxx tweeted at 2:49 p.m. as supporters roamed the halls of the Capitol. “People have the right to peacefully protest, and there is absolutely no reason to resort to destruction. God bless the brave men and women of the United States Capitol Police for protecting us.”

She later tweeted at 4:18 p.m. that she was safe and that law and order must be upheld.

“I am safe,” Foxx tweeted. “Members of my staff are safe. The protestors within the Capitol must immediately back down. Senseless violence accomplishes absolutely nothing.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper went as far as to call the events on Capitol Hill terrorism.

“The peaceful transition of power is the hallmark of our democracy,” Cooper tweeted. “Today’s terrorism is not who we are. This attack on our country must be overcome. America is better than this.”

At 5:30 p.m., the AP reported that five weapons were recovered and 13 people have so-far been arrested in the pro-Trump protests.

On Jan. 7, the United States Capitol Police announced that Officer Brian Sicknick passed away due to injuries sustained while on-duty. According to a press release from the USCP, Sicknick was responding to the “riots” at the Capitol when was injured while physically engaging with protesters.

His death will be investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department’s Homicide Branch, the USCP and its federal partners.

Rep. Foxx released a statement on Facebook after his death was announced.

“U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died while protecting this institution and the many people who work here,” Foxx wrote. “My prayers go out to his loved ones. His service will never be forgotten.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking information that will help identify individuals who took part in the violence in Washington, DC. The FBI is accepting tips & digital media depicting rioting & violence in the U.S. Capitol Building & surrounding area on Jan. 6.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein tweeted Jan. 8 that his office is supporting federal law enforcement agencies investigating North Carolinians who participated in the “raid at the U.S. Capitol.”

“If you have any information about a North Carolinian who participated in this lawless insurrection, please email investigationtips@ncdoj.gov,” Stein tweeted.

Rep. Ray Pickett (R-Blowing Rock) condemned the violence that took place.

“I believe that peaceful and respectful protest are a part of the freedoms that we all enjoy, but violence is not the answer,” Pickett said. “I hope that everyone will regain their composure and no one else gets hurt. My prayers go out to those who lost their life.”

Pickett is referring to the reporting by the AP that Air Force Veteran Ashli Babbitt, 35, who was shot inside the Capitol has died.

The morning after the events on Capitol Hill, Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock) posted a statement on her Facebook. In it, she said the events gave her an a sense of “overwhelming sadness, frustration, anger.”

“But I am buoyed by the bravery and courage of our law enforcement and first responders in the midst of the violence and chaos,” Ballard wrote in her statement. “I know those responsible will be held accountable and am thankful our elected officials were able to safely finish performing their Constitutional duties early this morning. The electoral certification result is final — we have a new President of the United States. It is a new day. Let’s go to work, listen and respect one another, hug our families tighter, pray for our nation and its leadership, disagree without hate and move forward.”

Ashe County Democratic Party Chairman Ralph Sorrell said Trump “should be removed from office and criminally charged with inciting a riot.”

Sorrell added, “Furthermore, every Republican, including Virginia Foxx, who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s victory should also be held accountable for failing to perform their Constitutional duties. This election was free and fair and indisputable and they know it. Moving forward, I fear that if the Republican Party refuses to accept the will of the voters just because they don’t like the outcome, then our nation is on a slippery slope to fascism. It is up to all of us, and especially the media, to be diligent in calling this out. Our Democracy is dangerously in peril right now and needs to be protected by all of us.”

Ashe County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Jordan said the Ashe GOP roundly condemns any sort of violence in their political discourse.

“I know our Ashe County Republicans are very supportive of law and order and find this to be shocking,” Jordan said. “We are seeing the disintegration of political discourse in front of our eyes. It’s happening on the left and the right and that does not bode well for our citizens.”

Kim Brackett, a Boone area resident, helped organize a bus from Boone to attend the rally after she said there was a lot of interest from people in the High Country.

Brackett said she went to join other Americans in support of Trump and for “free and fair elections.”

“Our group, as were most, were unaware of what had happened and most were already starting the long walk back for scheduled pick up before the violence started and departed on time,” Brackett said. “We condemn violence, support law and order and those responsible held accountable. Those that caused the violence do not represent the tens of millions of law abiding, hard word working, tax paying citizens and families that were there.”

Brackett said nine buses left from North Carolina and the one from Boone represented four counties. An invite from the North Carolina Values Coalition, which helped organize the event, stated there were 55 seats on the bus and seats would go fast.

The North Carolina Values Coalition describes itself as non-partisan, non-profit education and lobbying organization with a statewide grassroots network.

In a Facebook post, the organization said those from North Carolina who traveled arrived back safely.

“Violence is wrong,” the Facebook post said. “We can do better. We are one Nation now on a different course.”

The Watauga County Democrats posted on Facebook that “This Is a moral abdication on the part of the President.” A request for further comment had not been returned at the time of publication.

Charlie Wallin, chair of 5th District Democrats and Watauga County commissioner, condemned the violence at the Capitol. He said he was “shocked” and “disgusted” to see what happened on the Capitol.

“I am a firm believer of both the First Amendment and people’s right to peacefully assemble,” Wallin said. “Once people broke through barricades, broke windows and stormed the Capitol it ceased being a peaceful assembly. To forcefully enter the sacred chambers of the House and Senate where you earn the privilege to walk the floor and where leaders have gathered to mold and shape this nation is despicable.”

Wallin also said his thoughts and prayers are with everyone in DC, including the law enforcement and fire personnel.

The chair of the Watauga County GOP, Ann-Marie Yates, said in a statement that it was sad to see the “disintegration of the country before our eyes.”

“We denounce violence at every event but support one person one vote,” Yates said. “In an effort to restore unity as stated by President-elect Biden, we strongly encourage an investigation from the Justice Department regarding the questions surrounding the 2020 election and subsequent runoff elections of fraud allegations.”

Michael Davis, App State senior and student body president, worked on Capitol Hill as an intern for North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr in 2019.

“A peaceful transition of power has been a tradition that America has prided itself on for quite some time,” Davis said. “It is both sad and frustrating to see violence and misinformation continue to plague our democracy. I hope those that committed and aided today’s storming of the Capitol are held accountable, and that we will move forward as a nation and have a better start to the new year.”

Appalachian State Chancellor Sheri Everts also responded to the events that occurred. She posted a statement on Twitter that said the “violent attack” was reminder of the value of truth, civil discourse, and the respectful exchange of ideas and beliefs.

“As educators, it is our responsibility to and privilege to advance these fundamental principles,” Everts said in her statement. “As Mountaineers, we must be part of forging a future in which we recognize the humanity in none another to sustain the democracy we so deeply value.”

The AP reported that president-elect Joe Biden has called the violent protests on the U.S. Capitol “an assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: the doing of the people’s business.”

Phillip Ardoin, the chair of the political science department at Appalachian State, said the events occurring on the Capitol is something “we have not seen in contemporary American Politics.”

“Not only was today disturbing because of the symbolic intrusion into the U.S. Capitol, but these individuals were encouraged by a sitting president and his partisan supporters,” Ardoin said.

Five professors from Appalachian State have signed onto an open letter from political scientists calling for the removal of Trump through impeachment of the 25th Amendment. Those professors include

Ardoin said that he is an optimist and hopes that what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 will bring the country together.

“Perhaps we will see that we can’t keep thinking of our country as red America versus blue America,” Ardoin said. “We are the United States of America and if we want to move forward and address the critical challenges facing our country we must figure out a way to unite as a country.”

Bailey Little contributed reporting to this article.

Snow falls on Ashe County: the first snowfall of the year

A baby calf was born in the middle of the Jan. 8 snowstorm in Warrensville.

Jace bare kneels proudly on his giant snowball. 

Airis and Cooper have fun together in the snow.

A charming river flows as snow falls over the county. 

ASHE COUNTY — During this past weekend, people across the county were able to witness the first snowstorm of the year. In the early hours of Jan. 8, snow began to fall over the county and left some elevations with nearly 10 inches.

Residents from West Jefferson reported up to 8 inches while some in Fleetwood reported 6 inches. The most snow reported was 10 inches in Clifton.

Though the blanket of snow was a beautiful sight, it came with dangerous conditions.

A number of wrecks occurred in the area, one in particular being fatal.

On Jan. 8, at approximately 8:30 a.m., the NC State Highway Patrol responded to a fatal collision in Ashe County on NC 16 near Shatley Road.

A 2001 Ford Ranger was traveling north on NC 16, ran off the road to the left, traveled down an embankment, and overturned, according to a NC Highway Patrol release.

The driver, David Oscar Osbourne, 74, of Mouth of Wilson, Va., succumbed to his injuries at the scene. There were no passengers. Osbourne was not restrained by a seatbelt.

The initial investigation does not indicate impairment to be a contributing factor and it was snowing at the time of the crash.

Patty Gambill, executive management coordinator of the County of Ashe, encouraged people to remember to be safe in winter weather situations.

“Responding to multiple vehicle accidents, including one with a fatality, was the most significant issue for emergency services organizations. When roads are hazardous we encourage people to stay off the roads if possible to avoid putting themselves and responders at risk,” said Gambill.

Gambill expressed how the office of emergency management is readily prepared for conditions such as these.

“Snowfall is something we expect in the wintertime and for which we have plans in place to address. Thankfully there were limited power outages and for the most part residents sheltered in place and prepared for the storm by ensuring necessities such as food and medicines were on hand,” Gambill said.

Renee Whitener, director of public relations of Blue Ridge Energy stated that despite the stormy weather, there was only one outage reported. Around 4:52 p.m., three blue ridge energy members were impacted for just over an hour near Old Highway 16.

“With the weather forecast calling for up to eight inches of heavy, wet snow, we could have had a much worse situation,” said Whitener.”Significant accumulation of that type of snow can weigh heavily on trees and limbs, causing them to fall into power lines. If high winds are involved, it adds to the threat.”

Whitener expressed that power reliability is their main goal and that their vegetation management program helps prevent many outages. Their line technicians are always working to maintain the electric system.

”They’re trained to respond, any hour of the day and night, to restore power as quickly as possible when an outage does occur,” Whitener said.

While no wreck reports have been recorded by the Department of Public Safety at this time, the community has been active on social media, informing groups of wrecks and road conditions.

The people of Ashe have encouraged one another to stay safe and warm during this winter weather.

On the Ashe Post & Times Facebook page, many individuals reached out to share their photos of the snow over the weekend.

To see the full gallery of photos, visit ashepostandtimes.com. or click HERE.

BOE holds first meeting of year, votes to move forward with CMR method for middle school project

JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Board of Education met in regular session at the ACS Central Support Services Annex on Monday, Jan. 11 at 6 p.m.

Present were Superintendent Dr. Eisa Cox, Chair Joshua Roten, Vice Chair Dianne Eldreth and board members Dr. Kimberly Simmons, Keith McClure and Polly Jones.

In compliance with the COVID-19 State of Emergency declarations affecting the number of persons who may physically attend a gathering, an livestream was available on the website for the public to participate.

The video of the meeting is available to watch on the ACS Facebook page @Ashe County Public Schools, as well as on the website at ashecountyschools.org. A copy of the agenda, including all of the line items discussed is also available on the website. To access the agenda and video, select the “District” tab and “Board of Education” from the bulleted menu.

At the meeting, architect Larry Greene joined via Zoom to provide an update on the new middle school project.

According to Greene, plans are in order for his engineers to submit their design development documents to him, which are 50 percent complete, to Greene in PDF form by Friday, Jan. 15 or Monday, Jan 18.

At this time, Greene provided an anticipated timeline for progress by his team of engineers.

He plans for the construction documents to be 100 percent complete and submitted to the state, which will require prior approval by school planning, by the end of March or early April.

As far as the bidding process, Greene anticipates the advertisement of bids will take place in May and to receive bids and award the contract in June.

During the discussion about the new middle school plans, Eldreth made a motion to move forward with the previously discussed CMR (construction manager at risk) plans.

Prior to making her motion, Eldreth expressed concern about inflation affecting the cost of building materials.

The board decided to further research the idea of implementing a CMR at a special joint-meeting with the Ashe County Board of Commissioners and Greene on Dec. 15.

After the motion was made and Simmons seconded it, Jones voiced her “adamant” opposition to hiring a CMR.

“What you pay them you are taking away from the schoolchildren in Ashe County,” Jones said.

She added that the school will not be built any faster or cheaper through hiring a CMR and any comparison of the project to the Wilkes Community College Expansion project is unreasonable. The plans in store for the new middle school are much more larger in size and more complex.

“I am not going to take two people to do one person is already doing,” Jones said.

After a fair amount of discussion, Roten called for a vote.

The vote was 4-1 with Jones in opposition.

Cox presented a COVID-19 update for the school system with the latest information as of 11:30 that morning.

There were eight positive cases among staff members throughout the schools as of Jan. 11.

Cox said her biggest concern was the number of staff members out of the building at Blue Ridge Elementary School. There were total of 11 staff members out with three positive cases and eight quarantines.

She added that the snow accumulations in the county was of great help, as it resulted in three remote days for the school system.

“We know that kids learn better when they are in school, so we would like to have them in school if possible, but I certainly do not want to have children in school without the appropriate number of adults,” Cox said. “We can’t put classes together like we used to be able to in the past.”

As far as COVID-19 vaccines, the school system is partnering with AppHealthCare to help administer vaccine to school staff. Staff members who are age 50 and older will get the vaccines first.

According to Cox, they anticipate that by the end of January or the beginning of February all staff members within the organization, who wished to be vaccinated, will receive the first round of the Moderna vaccine.

Also during the Superintendent Comment portion, Cox shared some information about academics.

From October to December, fall tutoring was offered utilizing some of the COVID relief funds.

According to Cox, elementary school teachers all reported significant gains in second through fourth grade students through i-Ready, a comprehensive assessment and instruction program.

Cox added that was a renewed interest in reading by students as reported by teachers.

“I am excited that kids are learning to love reading again,” Cox said.

She added that through May, schools have hired temporary tutors for reading and math.

The next meeting of the BOE will be Monday, Feb 1.

Ashe sees 132 new cumulative cases of COVID-19 in week, AppHealthCare in Phase 1b of vaccine distribution

ASHE COUNTY — As of Tuesday, Jan. 12, there were 147 active cases in Ashe according to AppHealthCare, with a further 241 individuals being monitored and a cumulative case count of 1,655. There has been 37 deaths linked to COVID-19 in Ashe County according to AppHealthCare.

Outside of Ashe, AppHealthCare has reported 203 active cases and 24 deaths in Watauga County and 39 active cases and four deaths in Alleghany County. Across the state, there have been 7,638 deaths, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 12.

North Carolina had 635,975 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of noon on Tuesday, Jan. 12, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. This is more than 60,000 more cases than the same time a week earlier.

The COVID-19 vaccine is rolling out in phases and will be given to those who are most at risk first. Supplies will be limited at first but will increase throughout 2021.

According to information found on its website, AppHealthCare is currently in Phase 1b Group 1 of vaccine distribution right now. This means that individuals who are 75 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation, are eligible for the vaccine. Those who are eligible for vaccine in Phase 1a are still eligible for vaccine now.

The next phase will be Phase 2, which includes adults at high risk of exposure and at increased risk of severe illness.

AppHealthCare added that there is no specific timeline for when it will move through each of the phases.

AppHealthCare is continuing case investigation and contact tracing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you receive a call from a member of the case investigation or contact tracing team, AppHealthCare urges you to cooperate and provide information that will help conduct response efforts. Calls will be from (844) 628-7223 or (828) 264-4995. It may also show up as “NC Outreach” or “Contact Tracing.”

AppHealthCare encourages citizens to remember the three W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands.

In a media briefing on Jan. 6, NC Gov. Roy Cooper announced a three-week extension of the Modified Stay at Home Order which was originally set to expire Friday, Jan. 8. The order will now last through Jan. 29.

The full text of Executive Order No. 188 may be viewed by visiting https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO188-Extension-of-Modified-Stay-at-Home-Order.pdf.