Protesters Demonstrate Against Yoo Outside of California Hall

Photo: Protesters seeking the firing of Boalt Hall School of Law professor John Yoo demonstrated on campus Wednesday.
Shannon Hamilton/Photo
Protesters seeking the firing of Boalt Hall School of Law professor John Yoo demonstrated on campus Wednesday.

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Activists calling for the firing of UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo demonstrated Wednesday at UC Berkeley in efforts to hold Yoo responsible for his involvement in the alleged torture of terrorism suspects during the Bush administration.

A small group of demonstrators clad in pink asked for a meeting with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau outside of California Hall before performing a "banishment ritual" by writing messages on pink paper denouncing Yoo and lighting them on fire in a metal container outside of Boalt Hall School of Law where Yoo's class was in session.

"It is unacceptable that he continues to teach here," said Cynthia Papermaster, director of the National Accountability Action Network (NAAN), which coordinated the protest. "At the very minimum we would like him not to be given classes to teach."

NAAN is an umbrella organization of various anti-war groups including Code Pink, Veterans for Peace and the Progressive Democrats of America.

In response to the protest efforts against him, Yoo stated simply, "I think it's a nice way for them to celebrate Halloween and that's all I have to say."

During Yoo's tenure in the Bush administration as a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice, he wrote several legal memos that critics say justified illegal interrogation techniques-including simulated drowning, exposure to non-lethal insects and sleep deprivation-to be employed on suspected terrorists.

Though criminal charges have not been filed against Yoo, a civil suit brought by a former detainee and his mother is ongoing in federal district court.

Boalt Hall officials have defended Yoo's right to teach, claiming that he is a valuable asset to UC Berkeley.

"(Boalt Hall Dean Christopher Edley) says consistently that Professor Yoo enjoys freedom of academic expression and due process," said Boalt Hall spokesperson Susan Gluss. "We encourage students to grapple with these issues."

But Papermaster said academic freedom was not the issue.

"It's not that he wrote a book with unpopular ideas and they have to protect him with academic freedom arguments," she said. "It's about his actions when he was not employed by the university."

Gluss said the rules governing faculty conduct are vague when it comes to judging a professor's professional actions while working outside academia. Current university regulations permit the dismissal of tenured faculty in the event of a criminal conviction with ultimate approval from the UC Board of Regents.


Contact Heather Ross at [email protected]

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