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Asheville Students Hit Streets, Say "No to the war!"

by Eric Gardner |
March 23, 2006
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Asheville, NC  - The chant, “U.S. out of Iraq! Let them have their country back!” echoed off the buildings of downtown Asheville as a spirited group of over 100 students, young people, workers and veterans marched through the city to say no to Bush’s war. The protesters chose to mark the three-year anniversary of the invasion by joining millions of others around the world to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The protest began with a rally on the quad of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where UNCA students were joined by students from other nearby colleges and high schools, faculty members and people from the community. Rain, sleet and 40-degree temperatures did not stop a crowd of over 100 from gathering. Many students took up the call to walk out of classes at noon in order to stand in solidarity with the demonstrators. Students and faculty took turns speaking out, and then marched together from the university campus to the center of the city.

Kostas Harlan, one of the organizers of the protest, described the experience: “After a rally which heard from several students and two professors, we began to prepare for the two-mile march to downtown. Just as we began marching, the skies opened with heavy rain and sleet. I thought we would leave campus with a handful of people. But 75 students, many of whom were demonstrating against the war for the first time, kept up their spirits throughout the hour-long march to downtown. People driving by were amazed to see this group of enthusiastic, energized and militant students marching through the pouring rain.”

The protesters made their presence felt by shouting chants, blowing horns and carrying large colorful banners with slogans such as, “No blood for oil!” and, “Drop Bush, not bombs!” The group’s energetic mood drew more people as the march moved downtown, growing to over 100 people in all. Despite a large police presence, no attempts were made to stop or divert the marchers. After a brief stop at the Federal Building to denounce U.S. war crimes, the protesters surrounded Vance Monument in the heart of the city and held another hour-long rally. Demonstrators took turns on the megaphone to make spontaneous speeches, demanding justice for the people of Iraq as well as for the poor, working class and oppressed people of the United States.

Chapin Gray, a member of the UNCA Socialist Unity League, said, “This march really empowered people. There was a great sense of solidarity in the air and everyone who came out could feel it. Today a lot of students and young people experienced first-hand the power that the people have whenever they stand up against injustice together. And this is only the beginning. I think that most of our friends who stood with us downtown went home feeling a need to get organized. What happened today is going to happen again, and it will keep happening until this imperialist war is stopped and the criminals responsible for it are brought to justice.”