WCW Home Take Action Videos & Reports on Educational Events & Films 10-13-10 Berkeley Demonstrates Against Torture
10-13-10 Berkeley Demonstrates Against Torture PDF Print E-mail

By Rachel Banning-Lover

From The Daily Californian | Original Article


This week Berkeley will be hit by another wave of demonstrations as supporters of Berkeley’s “We Say No to Torture” voice their anger about the alleged lack of accountability for people who condone torture in the name of the United States. However, what stands out about the week-long event is that it is estimated to be the single largest gathering of anti-torture voices since the opening of Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Members of the city and UC Berkeley communities are invited to attend an extensive series of events taking place throughout the week from Oct. 10 to Oct. 16, including a demonstration outside Boalt Hall, where the controversial law Professor John Yoo teaches a class on Constitutional law every Tuesday. This week’s events have been endorsed by the Berkeley City Council, who unanimously passed a resolution in favor of Berkeley’s “We Say No to Torture” week in late September.

According to Cynthia Papermaster, a UC Berkeley alumna, activist for Code Pink and director of the National Accountability Action Network, the purpose of the events are to raise awareness about the United States’ past and continued involvement in alleged torture activities, with the focus being that torture is ultimately illegal and emphasizing the organizers’ belief that it is a non-debatable issue no matter who is involved or what the situation is.

“(Torture) has not ended with Obama coming into office,” Papermaster said. “We are trying to target the whole community, and actually the whole country with our message. We hope to inspire other communities to do their own non-torture events and we’ve chosen to hold many events on or around campus as we want to give Cal students an opportunity to express their outrage as the lack of accountability for torture carried out in our name.”

Events are free to UC Berkeley students and the general public is encouraged to give a $10 donation. Events include talks given by speakers including Andy Worthington, a famous British journalist who has interviewed former Guantanamo detainees who were proven innocent, Ray McGovern, a 27 year veteran of the CIA and Al Young, former California Poet Laureate.

Key Events include a John Yoo debate — which he did not attend — that was held on Tuesday night, and the west coast premiere of the film Reckoning with Torture — An Evening of Conscience on Friday night. The Friday night program was organized after the success of the film’s New York premiere, which 600 people attended, according to Papermaster.

The week’s events are being orchestrated by “a coalition of human rights, peace and justice groups that are asking for accountability now,” she said. Organizers believe the diverse program of events promise to attract a wide selection of the community

“We think we are bringing together more anti-torture voices than ever before since the opening of Guantanamo Bay,” said Stephanie Tang, an organizer with the World Can’t Wait, one of the organizations initiating the week. “Without this kind of resistance to torture from the people below, no one at the top is going to take notice and this has to stop.”

Motivations driving this week of protest include asking Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Berkeley’s representative in Congress, to introduce a resolution for the impeachment of California judge Jay Bybee, who was John Yoo’s boss in the Bush administration. The organizers are also asking that the council pass a resolution to welcome former Guantanamo detainees, a measure that has already been established by two cities in Massachusetts.

Additionally, the organizers are calling for the Alameda County District Attorney to indict John Yoo based on evidence that they are filing with the Berkeley Police Department.

“We worked really hard for several months — it has been a wonderful project on work on with world-renowned speakers and it’s extremely satisfying to have the support of Berkeley City Council, but I think what’s really important is to give a voice to students’ demands for accountability, provide a chance for them to learn about the issue. It’s just a fantastic, unique opportunity that we hope to spread across the country” said Papermaster.

Image Source: Michael Restrepo/Staff

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