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North Carolina: Students, community confront Congressman Shuler

By Michael Graham

Asheville, NC – Students and community members confronted North Carolina congressperson Heath Shuler at the University of North Carolina at Asheville March 26.

Shuler visited University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNC-Asheville) to hold a town hall meeting, but he was met with protest as members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Hispanic Outreach for Learning Awareness (HOLA) interrupted his talk to demand a stop to repression against immigrants and an immediate end to the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq.

Shuler took office in the 2006 congressional elections. The elections resulted in the Democratic Party taking the majority in Congress. The November 2006 election was understood to be a referendum on the war and the backward Republican agenda. People voted this way because they are sick of the war spearheaded by Bush and the Republicans, which is bringing so much misery to the people of Iraq and working people in the United States.

Many people in western North Carolina had high hopes for Shuler, but since his election he has done nothing to bring the troops home from Iraq. In fact, he has refused to vote against cutting funding for Bush’s war, which has been the main demand from the anti-war movement on congress since the election.

In addition he has introduced a bill that would persecute undocumented workers: the ‘SAVE act.’ This act would further militarize the borders by obtaining idle equipment from the Department of Defense including, Humvees, armaments and surveillance equipment. The SAVE act would also require employers to investigate the immigration status of employees through the E-Verify mechanism. Everybody knows that this would further enable greedy bosses to squeeze their employees through the threat of blackmail.

Rep. Heath Shuler has failed to oppose the illegal occupation of Iraq. He has now actively taken it upon himself to make life harder for immigrants. The people of western North Carolina elected Heath Shuler expecting at least some relief, but instead got inaction on the war and attacks on immigrants. And that’s why UNCA Students for a Democratic Society and the Hispanic Outreach for Learning Awareness organized a demonstration at Shuler’s town hall meeting at UNCA.

Members of UNCA SDS sat in the audience through Shuler’s talk. Shuler talked a lot about the day-to-day life of a congressperson and how committees work. Later he began to speak about Iraq and how he wouldn’t vote to stop funding the war because he didn’t want to abandon the troops. No one in the audience was buying this A woman’s voice could be heard from the back of the room saying, “It’s a war crime!” And it was clear that most in the room agreed with her statement. During the following question and answer period, where softball questions were selected by Shuler’s aides, HOLA entered the room carrying signs denouncing Shuler’s SAVE act, and the members of UNCA SDS in the audience stood up and revealed the t-shirts they had been wearing that said, “No war on immigrants. No war on Iraq.”

The crowd was surprised at first, but then the protesters began getting thumbs up from the remaining audience. When the demonstration spilled out into the lobby, HOLA and SDS were joined by a great many community members who were also fed up with Shuler’s behavior.

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