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'Closed for Business'

NC Students Arrested at Anti-War Sit-In

By Kosta Harlan |
February 24, 2007
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Chapel Hill, NC - Six students were arrested at Congressman David Price’s office Feb. 17 for holding a sit-in against the Iraq war. 40 people held a picket line outside while the students locked arms and occupied the office, demanding that Price vote against Bush’s Iraq war supplemental funding bill and oppose any aggression, including military action or sanctions, against Iran. Similar actions are taking place across the country in a campaign of pressure on Congress to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

David Price voted against going to war in 2002, but only after he was forced to take a stand by the pressure from protests, petitions and an office occupation by students that led to three arrests. Since then, Price has repeatedly stated he has always been opposed to the war, but like many other Democrats, refuses to take any effective action to end it. Specifically, Price says he will not vote to cut off war funding as this would “not support the troops.”

A statement from the organizers of the protest, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), said: “The Democratic Party won the 2006 midterm elections on the basis of mass opposition to the war. Now, three months later, they are betraying the anti-war mandate handed down by the people on November 7th and escalating this criminal war, which has already resulted in the deaths of over 650,000 Iraqis and 3,000 young Americans. Any politician who claims to be against the war has to prove it. We demand concrete, immediate, effective action - not lukewarm resolutions about “phased withdrawal” or “troop redeployment.” We want all funding cut off and the troops out NOW, and we will hold the politicians’ feet to the fire until the will of the people is met!”

Inside the office, David Price’s aides talked to the student protesters, took notes during the discussion and asked questions. When the students refused to leave without a guarantee that Price would vote against funding for the Iraq war, the aides called the police. Within 30 minutes the police began to haul away the students, one at a time. Meanwhile a banner that read, “Closed for business” was unfurled from the roof of Price’s office while protesters on the picket line chanted loudly in support of the detained protesters.

Alisan Fathalizadeh was reading the SDS statement to the press and Price’s aides when Chapel Hill police broke her lock with the other activists and handcuffed her. It was Fathalizadeh’s first time being arrested at a protest. Asked how she felt about the demonstration afterwards, she said, “This is the least we can do. It’s nothing compared to all the anguish and suffering that people in Iraq are dealing with, the people who are seeing others die everyday.”

Fathalizadeh continued, “We are fed up with the system - and with the old tactics. We’ve petitioned, we’ve done rallies; we’ve even had members of the community go directly to Price and talk to him, to express our concerns in a more ‘civil’ manner. But this demonstration shows how much we are fed up with what’s going on. It’s horrible that it’s come down to this, but it shows how big the problem is and how it needs to be changed now. We won’t wait any longer.”

All six students were released on bail and are scheduled to appear in court on March 26 at 9:00 a.m. in Hillsborough.

In the meantime, UNC-Chapel Hill SDS and antiwar activists in the area plan to increase the pressure on David Price and other elected officials until they respond to the people’s demands.

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