WCW Home Take Action Videos & Reports of Demonstrations 8-17-09 Press Conference/Yoo Demo
8-17-09 Press Conference/Yoo Demo PDF Print E-mail

On the first day of fall classes at University of California Berkeley
Law (Boalt Hall), John Yoo was scheduled to return to teaching after a
semester in exile at Chapman in Orange County.  Over 60 people
arrived on the Boalt steps for a press conference and protest called by
World Can’t Wait, the local National Lawyers Guild chapter,
Progressive Democrats of America, Code Pink, and others.  After an
impressive, well-attended press conference, a bold protest flowed
into the law school itself and up into Yoo’s classroom.

When we first arrived at Boalt, reporters and TV news cameras were
waiting.  So were the UC police, who announced that anyone using
amplified sound would immediately be arrested -- as if that could
prevent this determined group from delivering our message. 

The press conference went forward unamplified but loudly, with reporters and an attentive crowd hearing from speakers including four generations of UC and Boalt Hall alumni:  Sharon Adams (UC Davis Law 1991), Dan Siegel (Boalt 1970), Anne Weills, Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez (Boalt 2005), and Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute founder Ann Fagan Ginger (Boalt 1960) spoke first; all are with the National Lawyers Guild. 

Other speakers followed from World Can’t Wait; Progressive Democrats of America; National Accountability Action Network, and Code Pink. A statement was read from Ruth Fallenbaum (UC Berkeley 1971) for the Coalition for an Ethical APA {American Psychologists Association}. Click here for audio of these powerful statements. 

Protesters in orange jumpsuits and black hoods – representing the
detainees –stood silent sentry around the press conference, and as
students arrived the “detainees” flanked the doors, accompanied by teams
handing out World Can’t Wait’s new brochure, “The Truth About Torture:
Fire, Disbar and Prosecute John Yoo!” and talking with students and
professors.  Click here to see the brochure.

After the press conference, about 40 of us entered the law school
just before Yoo’s class was to begin. The hallway was filling with
students, many took our flyers and talked with us as we lined the
hall.  Some of us went inside his classroom and mingled with Yoo’s
students, talking about his role as Bush/Cheney’s legal architect of
torture, and why he should not be teaching law.  We weren’t surprised to
find that like so many other people on campus and off, most do not clearly
understand why we are calling Yoo a war criminal who should be fired,
disbarred, and prosecuted.

Many people – including these students –are aware that Yoo is a figure of
controversy, but few have looked closely at the details and extent of his
crimes.  And there is a lot of “moral relativism” when it comes to torture
itself.  Many students (and others) don’t like torture, but somehow it’s
become part of the world they live in: more than a few say “I’m just a law
student, it’s other people who can do something to stop this, and I’m sure
they will do the best they can.”  By “other people” most often they mean
the president and Congress.

As for what these future lawyers are being taught, many students say
torture is wrong, but are awash in confusion about the ramifications of
one of its key legal architects remaining on the faculty.  The
specious argument in defense of John Yoo’s “academic freedom” coming from
Dean Christopher Edley has spread this confusion.  To say Yoo’s views are
wrong but his work for the Bush-Cheney regime is protected by academic
freedom only encourages a “comfort zone” mentality,
wherein the law school classroom (with a torturer harbored in it) is
insulated and exempted from the outside world reality – where
thousands have been tortured as a direct result of Yoo’s “legal”
work.  Edley’s lesson is being well-learned by some of his students--
those who tell the protesters, “Don’t bring up the subject of torture
here, you’re disrupting my education.”

As John Yoo arrived and approached the classroom, he was surrounded by
chanting protestors: “War Criminal! War Criminal!  Torture is a War
Crime!”  Yoo went to his podium, guarded by police, as protesters
continued to verbally confront him and to call out to the students.  The
police were scrambling to grab protesters and throw them out of the
classroom.  Some students cheered the police.  Others watched, quietly.
As one protester was being shoved out into the hall by the cops, a woman
student reached over to touch her arm, saying very quietly, “Thank you.”
Every student in the room was thinking about torture, about whether their
professor is a war criminal and their government has been committing war
crimes, and why people would care enough about this to stand up and

Out in the hall, police threatened to arrest everyone, but the
chanting and agitating kept on.  We were especially calling on the
students and other professors to take a stand, saying that every
person in this country needs to learn the truth about the torture, and
then take responsibility for what that truth demands – that if American
torture is not stopped (because it’s still ongoing) and
repudiated, that it will become legal and permanent.

After another 15 minutes. although dozens of us were still in the hall we
had temporarily quieted down, in anticipation that we’d be there to speak
with the students after class.  However, the police moved in and arrested
a World Can’t Wait leader, Stephanie Tang.  As they handcuffed her, she
continued to speak out about the Torture Professor, the torture, and other
protesters did too.  Several followed the police as they took Stephanie to
the squad car, demanding to be arrested themselves (police refused to
comply).  Then minutes later, two more people were arrested, apparently
for taking pictures of the scene, and then a fourth person was grabbed as
well.  All four were taken to the jail in the basement of the UC
administration building, where they were cited and released, with two
misdemeanor charges each: trespassing, and disturbing the peace. Also, all
four people were given an official banning order, and can’t be on any UC
Berkeley property for 7 days.  New plans are being made now to build
support for them and to demand their cases be dropped.

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