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UNC Asheville Students Stage Counter-Recruitment Rally

by Kati Ketz and Kosta Harlan |
February 21, 2006
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UNCA students protest military recruitment.
Students at UNC-Ashville protest military recruitment at career fair. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Asheville, NC - Over 40 students confronted North Carolina Army National Guard recruiters on the University of North Carolina at Asheville campus during the university’s Career Fair, Feb. 21. The UNCA Socialist Unity League, a progressive and antiwar student group, led the effort for students to protest the recruiters’ presence.

The League held a rally in front of the library as students were leaving their morning classes, then marched across the university quad to the Career Fair in the Highsmith Student Union. As the protesters flooded into the hall, the Highsmith Union was filled with loud chants demanding that the recruiters leave. Many students passing through Highsmith Union stopped to join the demonstration and voice their support.

Several students then proceeded to block the recruiters’ table with enormous banners that read, “Out of Iraq - Out of our community - Out of UNCA!” and, “Not in Iraq, not in our schools!” Campus police were summoned and the students were threatened with arrest, while leaders of the Socialist Unity League were warned that if protesters continued to block the table, the group would be banned from campus.

Tensions rose as some of the campus police began to push and threaten students while trying to pull down their banners. A compromise was reached, and the protesters agreed to stand on either side of, and directly across from, the recruiters. The protest lasted for three hours - the length of time that the recruiters were allowed to stay on our campus. The recruiters succeeded in speaking to barely a handful of students. As the Career Fair ended, the protesters escorted the recruiters to their vehicles and it was all over.

Eric Gardner, one of the organizers of the protest said, “We want to say that none of us have anything against the people serving in the U.S. military. We are not against those in the United States military. We are against the people who con them into fighting and dying in an unjust war. We are against the corporations who make fabulous profits off the blood of young American men and women whose sufferings, however, don’t even come close to what the Iraqi people have seen at the hands of the U.S. government. We are against students at UNCA dying in an unjust war for the rich.”

Organizers of the protest and many students who came by to participate all promised to redouble their efforts for the fall Career Fair, and for the coming visits of the recruiters to the campus cafeteria. Pieter Wessels of the Socialist Unity League said, “We’re prepared to face these liars every time they try to recruit innocents for their death-machine. We won’t back down until they leave for good. This is just the beginning.”

One of the weak links in the imperialist occupation of Iraq is here at home. Battlefields include the military recruitment tables in communities, high schools and colleges across the United States. The National Guard is currently 25% behind on its recruitment levels. Without more recruits, the occupation will be undermined. The counter-recruitment movement will only grow - and with it, the chance for peace.