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Warren Rivals Elicit Conversation, Violence From Town Hall Attendees

Josh Landes
V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai's campaign outside of the Elizabeth Warren town hall Sunday in Great Barrington.

It wasn’t all well-wishers at Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Great Barrington, Massachusetts town hall Sunday. WAMC reports on the rival candidates who came to challenge the Democrat.

V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai’s Senate campaign can be summed up in one word: contention.

“What’s really going on is a bourgeois over in Cambridge and Boston, survive off a small, one-mile radius between MIT and Harvard," said Ayyadyrai Sunday. "That’s where trillions of dollars are spent every day, not out here, and you guys get to nicely vacation out here — you know, how much is that shirt over there you have on? How much is all that stuff you’re wearing? Quite a bit. And you continue to support a racist! Stop the hate!”

Bullhorn in hand, the Independent candidate incensed the long line of Warren supporters waiting to enter the town hall meeting. Ayyarudi, 54, immigrated to the United States from India in 1970 and is a political newcomer with multiple degrees from MIT. He claims to have started seven companies, and says he invented email, though the latter has been contested both in the press and by academics.

In this video, he’s on the bullhorn chanting “racist” at a Warren supporter, who subsequently punched the horn into his mouth. That person was promptly arrested by the Great Barrington police, though TheBerkshireEdge.com reported he later appeared inside the RSVP-only Warren event.

“We want to share with people and have a discourse with people about the fact that Elizabeth Warren is the racist,” the candidate said.

Ayyadurai’s comments on the bullhorn and to WAMC were framed by the banner his campaign held up outside the doors of the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center that condemned Warren as a racist for identifying as a Native American between 1985 and 1996 in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of Law Teachers as well as during her time at Harvard Law.

“Racism in America has been bounded to a very narrow discussion, with what I call white liberals, and typically in elite institutions," said Ayyadurai to WAMC. "And a lot of these people here are controlled, which is to say, don’t use certain words, change the name of buildings, and voila, we’ve solved racism. But that’s not racism. The reality is that the average net worth of a black person in Boston is $8, we don’t discuss the fact that poor whites in this country have been devastated by opioids, by lack of jobs, by lack of skills. That’s racism. And Elizabeth Warren takes advantage of that.”

Ayyadurai told WAMC that he’s raised about $200,000 for his campaign. Joining him in Great Barrington were Trump supporters in Make America Great Again hats; his campaign says he supports unions, local farms, and community banks. He even claims Noam Chomsky as a mentor. One crowd member in a shirt for upstart Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talked to him about Marx and Lenin, who Ayyadurai said got some things right. Another attendee yelled at him to go back to India.

Despite lacking party support and a significant donor base, Ayyadurai managed to outgun another Warren foe Sunday.

“Well one of the things we’ve been doing is going to the different events and letting people know, A) that they have a choice in November for a Senator who’s going to work for them, or someone who’s running for the White House in 2020," said State Representative Geoff Diehl of Massachusetts’s 7th Plymouth district to WAMC. He's running in the GOP primary. Seemingly unable to find parking in the famously space-strapped Great Barrington downtown, he arrived well after his publicized 1:30 p.m. press conference to meet with voters. Diehl spoke with WAMC on the phone a day later.

“And the other thing we were doing is also asking people there, maybe if they go inside would they ask her the question of whether or not she supports those here illegally in our country and in our state voting," said Diehl, "because that seems to be a movement in San Francisco and even in Boston right now, there’s a proposal to let those who are not citizens to vote in our elections.”

The question was not raised during the town hall. Diehl won the Republican Party’s endorsement at its convention in April.

Here's WAMC's full conversation with V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai from Sunday afternoon:


Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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