Four generations of alumni joined activists, community members and lawyers on the UC Berkeley School of Law steps to protest former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo’s return to campus Monday.
Yoo spent the spring semester at Chapman University School of Law in Orange County.
The group called for Yoo to be prosecuted and fired from his position as professor of law at the School of Law—formerly known as Boalt Hall—for writing memorandums which were used to justify extensive policies on detention and interrogation, even torture.
The Obama administration has so far showed little interest in prosecuting those who worked for the Bush administration. Despite criticism from protesters and from the National Lawyers Guild about Yoo’s continuing employment at UC Berkeley, Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley has defended Yoo’s actions as academic freedom.
Chanting “Yoo should be ashamed” and “I am so over Yoo,” the crowd assembled outside Boalt Hall at 1:30 p.m. Monday, closely watched by UC police, as students and professors walked in and out of the building.
The event was organized by the National Lawyers Guild, World Can’t Wait and Code Pink, whose members dressed up as “Pink Police” and included a dog sporting a pink “arrest torture” button.
When the UC Police Department told the event organizers they would not be allowed to use amplifiers outside the building, the speakers either talked loudly or stood on boxes to have their voices heard.
Members of the National Lawyers Guild stressed that Yoo should be held accountable for his actions, which they said had led to the torture of thousands of U.S. political prisoners.
Sharon Adams, a guild member, called Yoo’s memos “inane” and “secretive.”
“In the name of democracy, Yoo did all he could to undermine democracy,” she said, talking about the much criticized wiretapping and controversial interrogation techniques like waterboarding.
“This is the kind of person who is teaching our next generation of lawyers ... He should be prosecuted for war crimes.”
Yoo has said in the past that the harsh techniques were required to protect the United States from terrorist attacks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The infamous Abu Ghraib torture pictures, which came to public attention in 2004, dotted Boalt’s steps, with several individuals posing as hooded prisoners in chains, and one of them resembling the iconic man on top of a box.
Dan Siegel, a 1970 Boalt Hall alumnus and nationally known trial and appellate lawyer, said he was angry and frustrated that Edley, a staunch advocate of civil rights, continues to head a faculty which includes a “war criminal.”
“There is little doubt that John Yoo is a war criminal,” Siegel said. “There are some who try to bastardize the situation, as if Yoo wrote a law review article. This person wrote an ideological and legal basis for torture. I am hoping that if Dean Edley doesn’t get wise, we will march down to Yoo’s office next time.”
Ann Fagan Ginger, Boalt Hall Class of 1960, decried Edley using academic freedom as the basis of Yoo’s actions.
Ginger, who leads the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute in Berkeley, said UC Berkeley students should have the academic freedom to take classes from someone who had not been charged with being a war criminal.
Following the rally, at least 12 of the anti-war protesters entered the law school building and went inside Yoo’s classroom, where they talked to some students and Yoo himself.
When UCPD officers asked them to leave the classroom, the group stepped outside and began chanting loudly.
UCPD spokesperson Lt. Douglas Wing said that the group was asked to leave the building because they were being loud and disruptive. When four of them refused to obey the officers’ orders, they were arrested and cited for disrupting the peace and tresspassing, and given a campus stay-away order. Wing said the four arrested were released on site.