Reader Report: Demonstrators At U.C. Graduation Call Yoo War Criminal

By Henry Norr
Sunday May 18, 2008 - 09:34:00 AM
Mary Ervin of Oakland, one of those who demonstrated against John Yoo at U.C. graduation ceremonies, carried a cardboard replica of an M-16 rifle.
By Henry Norr
Mary Ervin of Oakland, one of those who demonstrated against John Yoo at U.C. graduation ceremonies, carried a cardboard replica of an M-16 rifle.

If Professor John Yoo, the Boalt Hall community, and UC Berkeley administration didn't know it before, they surely do after today's graduation ceremonies: there's a large and growing movement demanding that Yoo be held accountable for providing pseudo-legal rationalizations for the Bush administration's torture policy.  


With signs and banners reading "Shame on Yoo," "War Criminal," "Torture is Terrorism," and "Fire, Disbar, and Prosecute Yoo," nearly 100 demonstrators - many dressed in eye-catching Guantánamo-style orange jumpsuits - lined the entrances to the Greek Theatre as this year's Boalt graduates, their guests, and the faculty filed in for the 9:00 a.m. ceremony at the Greek Theatre. Members of Act Against Torture, CodePink, the Presente affinity group, the World Can't Wait, and other groups handed out a factsheet about Yoo's record prepared by members of the National Lawyers Guild, plus copies of this week's East Bay Express, which features an excellent cover story on "The Torture Professor," and a postcard to Boalt dean Christtopher Edley calling on him to fire Yoo. 


We also offered orange ribbons to graduation guests who wanted to show their opposition to Yoo and torture, and hundreds of the guests pinned them on to their clothing. Many of the graduates wore multicolored armbands to show their opposition to torture, tuition hikes, and other problems. 


Just to make sure no one could miss the message, a small plane towing a banner reading "Shame on Yoo & UC - End Torture" appeared overhead and flew several laps around the Greek Theatre as the ceremony began. 


Most of the protesters stayed to continue the demonstration along the route from the Greek Theatre to the post-graduation reception in the Boalt Hall courtyard. As the demonstration wound up, participants gathered to listen to a few words from Carlos Mauricio, a former professor at the University of El Salvador who was tortured for weeks by the U.S.-backed regime that ruled his country in the 1980s, until he broke and confessed to charges that had no basis in reality. Mauricio, who now lives in San Francisco and leads an international campaign called the Stop Impunity Project, thanked demonstrators for speaking out against torture and urged us to continue doing so. 


After a long morning in the summer heat, demonstrators left tired, but at the same time energized. We're already making plans to keep up the pressure on Yoo and Boalt, particularly when school resumes in the fall. Some tactics under consideration: petitions, open letters, and pledges by UC alumni to withhold donations until Yoo is punished for his crimes. If you can help, or just want to stay informed about the campaign, keep an eye on www.actagainsttorture,org, or write to us at ActAgainstTorture@riseup.net. 


Henry Norr is a member of Act Against Torture.