Sunday, May 18, 2008

UC Berkely Students Protest at Graduation

50 or so students decided to make a statement at the graduation ceremony of their fellow students, asking their administration to fire Prof. John Yoo for his support of the Bush Administration's torture policies.

"We want to see him fired and disbarred for being a war criminal," said Anne Weills, an Oakland attorney who said she was with the National Lawyers Guild, one of the groups that protested. "Academic freedom stops when you intend to harm or injure somebody."

Yoo, a tenured constitutional law professor at Boalt Hall, took a leave of absence from 2001 to 2003 to work for the U.S. Department of Justice. During that time, he wrote what critics call the "torture memos," which protesters say outlined the legal basis for the use of torture at the Abu Ghraib (Iraq) and Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) military prisons.

The students, dressed as Guantanamo Detainees and sitting in makeshift cages, called Yoo a war-criminal and called for him to be disbarred, fired, and tried.

Yoo drafted an August 2002 memo, signed by his boss, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, providing the legal basis to justify torture in interrogating terrorism suspects. Among other things, Yoo argued that habeas corpus and other legal protections don't apply to CIA detainees because Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are not on U.S. soil.

While I would disagree with Yoo substantially, I don't think it was prudent to make such an elaborate protest (even flying a plane with an anti-Yoo banner overhead) while my fellow students are trying to celebrate the culmination of four (or more) years of hard work and dedication. For some, this could be one of the happiest days of their life. I guess it doesn't surprise me though, we've seen actions like this from many fringe liberal crazies, as well as the nuts religious right (Westboro Baptists anyone?). It would be insane to fire him from the job, much less disbar or indite him just because of his political views.

William Upshaw of Oakland, who was at the event to see his wife graduate, was unhappy with the hoopla outside the theater.

"It's interesting, but unexpected," he said as he filed past the protest, carrying a bouquet for his wife, "and, actually, I don't think it's appropriate."

No shit.

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