'Peace' Buttons on Asheville Bridge Provoke Anxiety, Road Closure

ASHEVILLE, NC (Citizen-Times) – Interstate 240 and the Haywood Road bridge over it in Asheville were closed for a few minutes Thursday afternoon while police removed two objects reading "peace" from bridge girders.

Police initially called the objects "suspicious packages." A helmeted policeman stood atop a ladder on a fire truck to take them down.

The round objects resembled giant versions of the Staples "easy" button the office supply chain uses in its advertising. About a foot across, they were made of Styrofoam or something similar, painted red and gray and attached to the metal beams on the underside of the bridge with magnets.

One was on the north side of the bridge, the other on the south side.

Lt. Joseph Sorrells said police thought the objects probably did not present a threat "but we wanted to err on the side of caution."

Roads were closed for 10 to 12 minutes around 2 p.m., causing significant backups on I-240.

PHOTOS: 'Suspicious' buttons labeled 'peace' close West Asheville roads

Police spokeswoman Christina Hallingse said the state Department of Transportation reported the objects to police at 12:45 p.m. Thursday.

"We just take all suspicious packages seriously," she said.

It was unclear how long the objects had been attached to the bridges. Sorrels said someone told him after the incident began that she had seen them early Thursday morning and several people said on social media they had seen them Wednesday.

An unidentified man on a bicycle was tackled and taken into custody after he ignored a policeman blocking traffic who called out "Hey boss!" and possibly said other things to him while trying to close the east end of the bridge.

The man had crossed the bridge a few minutes before. Sorrels and Hallingse said police had told him numerous times to stay off the bridge in case the objects posed a threat.

Hallingse said she could not say what he was charged with.

The Asheville City Preschool on Haywood Road was temporarily placed on lockdown during the incident.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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