As a local movement to censure U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein for supporting Michael Mukasey’s nomination for U.S. Attorney General began, more than 200 students gathered in front of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza Wednes-day to witness a waterboarding demonstration.
The noontime rally, organized by World Can’t Wait and local activists, was staged to protest the appointment of Judge Mukasey, who has dodged questions of whether waterboarding could be considered torture.
During his confirmation hearing, Mukasey refused to take a stand against the act, stating, “If it [waterboarding] amounts to torture, it is not constitutional,” and “hypotheticals are different from real life, and in my legal opinion the actual facts and circumstances are critical.”
Mal Burnstein, California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus co-chair, wrote the resolution to censure Sen. Feinstein and is circulating it at party meetings.
“She is supporting a man who refused to renounce the right of the president to resort to torture and who refused to recognize waterboarding as a form of torture,” Burnstein said.
“She has not supported the principles of the Democratic Party for years. She voted for the war in Iraq and voted to confirm Judge Leslie Southwick for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit despite his clear record of racism and gender discrimination.”
The resolution, unanimously endorsed by the East Bay for Democracy Democratic Club, will be sent to the Democratic Party Executive Board this weekend as it meets in Anaheim. MoveOn.org announced Thursday that it was also supporting the resolution to censure Feinstein.
At the rally Wednesday, Joe Tugas, an Iraq War veteran, was taken up on the Sproul stage, hooded and handcuffed and placed on a waterboard. Volunteers dressed in army fatigues covered his face with a towel and poured several gallons of water on it.
“Stop it, Stop it” cried out several students from the crowd, as the water continued to fall.
Rising from the wooden board wearing an orange jumpsuit, Tugas described the incident as one of the scariest experiences of his life.
“We did this to make a point about the torture that’s being carried out,” said Giovanni Jackson from World Can’t Wait. “The students really got a sense of what torture really is. It’s important that they take a stand against war, torture and the whole direction our government is going for ... especially since this university has a professor, John Yoo , who is responsible for writing the country’s torture policy.”
Curious students flocked to the scene and asked questions about waterboarding.
Organizers informed them that Tugas had been wearing a protective mask at the time of the demonstration, to prevent the water from entering his lungs.
“I think that the debate about waterboarding is misleading,” said Troy Sanders, a second-year UC Berkeley Peace and Justice student. “Anytime you waterboard you threaten someone’s life. Our bipartisan system has put a very bad regime in place. As far as I know, no studies have shown that torture actually works. People just give you information that you want to hear.”