“May I offer you one of these to protest torture in your own country?” said writer Cecile Pineda, as she proffered orange ribbons to each visitor walking up the ramp from Gayley Road towards the Greek Theatre.
The orange clad Pineda was part of a small protest organized by the group World Can’t Wait! outside the May 13, 2011 Commencement ceremonies for Berkeley Law ( formerly Boalt School of Law) at UC Berkeley.
Some protestors offered ribbons, others carried signs or banners, and one dressed in an orange jumpsuit, chains, and a hood to symbolize prisoners tortured at Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere in the far flung network of United States outposts and interventions in the world over the past decade.
The focus of this protest was Professor John Yoo, a member of the faculty at the School of Law who is regarded as a prime architect of legal policies created under the Bush Administration to justify torture.
Some took the ribbons from Pineda with thanks; a few rushed by then turned back to get one. “Sure, we do agree”, said one man. Others looked confused or ignored her. “It’s a sunny day and we don’t think much on sunny days”, she said.
She said she had picketed with both World Can’t Wait and Code Pink. “Protestors have come more and more unsmiling. I think that’s a barometer of what’s happening in a culture and a society.”
“People really need to have suffered to understand what torture is.”
The response to the protest was “really good”, said David Sylvester, another protester who studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. “We’ve had a much better response this year than last year.”
“The main issue is to get the torture into people’s psyche”, Sylvester said. In addition to focusing on John Yoo, “we also protest (former Secretary of State) Condi Rice, because she’s another torture traitor.”
“This year many more people are protesting torture.” There’s “much more receptivity to the message”, Sylvester said.
This was the fourth protest at a Boalt graduation said Stephanie Tang, one of the lead organizers. “Every year a lot of the graduates understand the issue”, and many take orange ribbons, she said.
The protest focused on both entryways to the Greek Theatre and along the sidewalks approaching it. UC police watched the demonstrators.
“A lot of people are more aware. People are taking the ribbon this year as a sign they don’t support torture,” Tang said. “What is really needed to stop the torture is a massive refusal and resistance from the people of this country.”
“Dean Edley has never worn an orange ribbon”, she said “He refused it again this year.”
In 2009 the Dean of the law school, Christopher Edley, Jr. wrote a perspective on the Yoo controversy which can still be found on the Law School website.
The School of Law faculty shouldn’t support Yoo, Tang argued. But Rice and Yoo were “allowed back into academia as if they don’t have blood on their hands.”
“John Yoo is no role model, he’s a war criminal.”
The group has “confronted him in public at lectures and classes”, Tang said. “It’s horrendous that the faculty and administration treat this as lightly as they do.”
“There are no issues of academic freedom here”, she argued.
“The University and Boalt are complicit in torture by failing to maintain academic freedom as the pursuit of truth, not as a means to justify political goals”, one of the pieces of literature distributed by the group read.
“Who in any leadership position at Boalt is asking questions, and demanding a debate on Yoo, his theories and his suitability as a professional, ethical, or moral role model for students? Without this, claims of academic ‘freedom’ are a sham. Repressive regimes always look ‘free’—until you ask real questions.”
“What a bizarre situation we face: UC is paying an advocate/designer of illegal government action (rendition, aggressive war, torture) teaching constitutional law and ethics to the next generation of lawyers and judges,” the flyer continued.
This article originally appeared on The Berkeley Daily Planet on May 16, 2011.
By Gina Kim
John Yoo didn't set out to become the face of torture.
But that's what happened after the former attorney in the George W. Bush administration wrote memos justifying the expansion of presidential powers - including how the government treats suspected terrorists - following the 9/11 attacks.And it's a label that continues to stick to the 43-year-old Yoo, who has since returned to teaching constitutional and international law at the University of California, Berkeley.
by Peter Stevenson June 28, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC, June 16, 2010 (ENS) - In a speech from the Oval Office Tuesday night, President Barack Obama stressed that the federal government is in control of the response to the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and that the responsible party, BP, will do as the government directs the company to do. "We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused," he vowed yet again.
Actors, Writers, Performers, Lawyers Say President is Wrong to Target U.S. Citizen for Assassination
Press release from the national office of World Can’t Wait
Racist bigots with the "Tea Party Movement" aren't the only ones in the streets, as we proved March 18th - March 21st with coast to coast protests against the wars and torture the U.S. is still carrying out.
What has this war meant for the people of Iraq? Despite 7 years of "shock & awe" for the people of Iraq, their nightmare of US invasion is not over... 7 years of bombs and home-raids, repeated massacres of whole families.
One of the speakers at the protest in Chicago was Fatma Hindi, a former professor of journalism at the University of Baghdad and now an Iraqi refugee working with the Refugee Center for Hope in Chicago:
"I have not [got anything] to say because I want to scream, because I want to cry," said Hindi, whose sister's family in Iraq was killed in an explosion two weeks ago and who was herself both kidnapped and raped before finding a safe haven in Chicago. "I want to thank you so much because you are here with me now."
The war and occupation of Afghanistan was never justified & must end also. ONLY the people can do this; only through mass visible protest, not hemmed in to official politics can we bring these horrors to a halt. In doing so, we give heart to the people of Iraq & Afghanistan and all over the world. These wars are being carried out in our names and it is our responsibility to stop them.
Report from the ground in DC by Debra Sweet
Some people from Toledo, OH put up a huge display memorializing the 5,400 soldiers killed, as well as the million+ in Iraq. There's a class of Cal State students here with their professor. They're coming from different backgrounds and different majors: women's studies, art, film... we sat down and talked about John Yoo and what's behind the protest of him tomorrow night. They wanted to know - what does it take to put together a movement like this?
There was a press conference today - the AP and Washington Post came out. A reporter asked us if it's harder to stage a protest movement against Democratic presidents. We all know the movement isn't where it should be. But on the other hand this is the first time when we're marching across the country in a big way against Obama's wars.
There are thousands of posters up around the city for the march on Saturday. ANSWER has $9,000 in fines for putting them up but they are fighting this political repression and not accepting it.
What World Can't Wait is bringing into the mix:
We have to take people back to the basics: this was a preemptive, aggressive, illegitimate war, and we need to end it. We've been right all along: this wasn't a "dumb" war, this was an unjust war - a crime against humanity! We are marching Saturday to take responsibility for the future and to stop the crimes of our government. Look what it's led to, seven years later.
As for the war in Afghanistan - it is now truly Obama's war. The current military offensive is the biggest offensive in the history of the war and has led to repeated killings of dozens of civilians. It is being done in our name but is not about saving the people of Afghanistan. The torture state continues - these are crimes. In fact, the situtation is worse under Obama. People are being detained indefinitely, tortured, held in isolation and force fed in the most inhumane ways. Now, denied the right to defend themselves in Bagram prison in Afghanistan.
Cindy Sheehan was interviewed on Democracy Now! on Friday, and then she, I and others were on Free Speech Radio News talking about the anti-war movement.
Then, we went to protest John Yoo at the University of Virginia law school. He was in fine form as usual, telling David Swanson that there was nothing that could stop the President from nuking U.S. cities.
There were thousands marching in DC. Read AP report. Watch the AP video. Watch the local video coverage:
You can read Debra Sweet's speech here. After the march, several protesters were arrested in front of the White House, including Cindy Sheehan, Elaine Brower, and Matthis Chiroux. They were in jail for more than 48 hours, disrupting Cindy's ability to lead the Camp Out Now protests on the following days. Read Matthis' account of why he burned the U.S. flag, and why he doesn't regret it. Watch the video:
On Sunday March 21st in Seattle, hundreds gathered to protest the illegitimate wars and occupations. We got mainly positive response from people on the sides of the streets and some joined in the march on the spot. The We Are Not Your Soldiers flier was tremendously popular and people really like that we are doing something to actually STOP the wars instead of just dissenting against them. Teenagers in particular were interested and had though about military recruiting some but weren’t sure how to go up against it. There was an ex-school teacher who really were glad to see us out there, recalling the days when recruiters would come into the schools completely unopposed and try to suck on youth to join the military. He hated it but also wasn’t sure how to go up against it. We had 4 high school students join our contingent, all very energetic and wanting to do something that would contribute to stopping torture and the war. One high school woman said, “ I was in second grade when 9/11 happened and this is all we have really known.” Another high school student said, “You always hear about 9/11 but they don’t teach you in school why it happened, what led up to it (referring to what the U.S. does in the world), it wasn’t until my freshman year that I really started to understand this.” People are frusterated but they are also inspired to see others criticizing what Obama is doing and there largest applause came when we said that millions of people need to stay in the streets until Bush, Cheney and all war criminals are prosecuted and sent to jail for war crimes. People also expected to be more college students from the student strikes but this did not translate. One young woman said, “Maybe they are not coming out because this doesn’t affect them directly.” The approach some of the organizers had was to try to show that the war affecting students directly by building for the action by saying money for education not for war and occupation, thinking that would convince them to come out. However, what was compelling those who wanted to stop the war and have consistently been out in the streets have been those who have an understanding about what the reality of these wars are, the atrocities that are committed against the people in Iraq & Afghanistan and seeing that these are a part of wars for empire.
This is what needs to be brought out to people. One student said, “ If somebody could convince us that these wars are wrong, who’s to say we can’t convince the world.”
About 15 people holding banners and signs demanding an end to wars, occupations and torture lined a busy intersection in Honolulu on Saturday. Response from passers-by was overwhelmingly positive. Many people walking by stopped to thank us, shake our hands, and even say "everyone should be doing this". But when we invited them to join us most said they were busy (and headed to Hawai`i's largest shopping center across the street). Many people honked their car horns or gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Trolley drivers clanged their bells, and many tourists on the open-air trolleys waved in support. Japanese tourists held up cameras and cell-phones and we're confident that the messages on our banners went far beyond our state.
The turn-out for the signholding was disappointing, but not surprising. We had not built for this protest as broadly as we usually do. Some supporters said they had been discouraged with the number of people responding to recent anti-war protests and didn't want to feel discouraged again. But for those who came, it was heartening to hear and see the support of the people passing by and to know that the demand to end the war resonates with the majority, even while the ability to transform this sentiment into action remains elusive.
The Richest Country in the World is Destroying one of the Poorest
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers study of the Vietnam War and is the subject of the recent documentary film, "The Most Dangerous Man in America," likened the protest and others like it around the country Saturday to a day of demonstrations organized against the conflict in Vietnam in 1969.
"They thought it had no effect," he told the crowd in San Francisco, referring to the 1969 protesters. "They were wrong."
Ellsberg said President Richard Nixon was planning to escalate the war around that time, but held off.
Listen to the KPFA archived live report broadcast during the protest:
1) Stephanie Tang talks about World Can't Wait, We Are Not Your Soldiers...
Starts about 28:50-32:40, and 32:40-34:56
2) Then more from the rally at Civic Center:
38:20-39:39 ...Miguel introducing Iraq Vets Against the War
38:44-42.00 ... Carl, Forest, speaking for IVAW
3) Then more from Stephanie Tang on John Yoo and prosecuting war criminals:
1:04:26 and goes on to 1:13:23
Speech by Fatima Hindi, Iraqi refugee (video)
Different views within the anti-war movement (video)
Speech by Coco, member of Chicago Chapter of World Can't Wait
Obama has NOT stopped torture!!! Obama has NOT closed Guantanamo, he has changed the zip code by moving it to Thomson, Illinois! Obama has NOT charged ANY of those responsible for torture with crimes against humanity and murder of which they are god damned guilty of! The Obama administration has allowed the continued use of "extraordinary rendition" by the CIA. They are continuing to fight the release of some 2,000 photos that graphically document U.S. military abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. The abuse involves "blows to [the] testicles;" "detention underground in total darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep;" being "inoculated … through injection with 'a disease for dog cysts;'" the smearing of feces on prisoners; and waterboarding. The torture, according to the Spanish investigation, all occurred "under the authority of American military personnel" and was sometimes conducted in the presence of medical professionals. I don’t know about you, but that’s not the ‘hope and change’ I wanted!
OBAMA IS THE FUCKING SAME AS BUSH!! Obama wants to ‘look forward, not backward’ we CANNOT afford to ‘look forward’ when detainees are being rounded up and TORTURED for the so-called safety of THE COUNTRY?! BULLSHIT! That’s some fucked up tortured logic that hasn’t made any of us safer!!
Of our government’s brutality
We can’t see their suffering,
Or hear their screams,
But the stain
Of our inhumane behavior
Is like a gruesome spot-
Which will never
Of the fabric
Of Our flag.
Under the stars and stripes,
We all struggle and sweat for some
Under the red
Red stripes of blood flow,
Stars never to be seen.
White fear from simulated drowning,
Blue throbbing neck, arms and legs
From stress positions
Broken bodies: arms, eyes, hands,
Broken like Us,
Or forced feeding.
Death threats on wives and children.
In this supposed democracy,
Our government is Us,
If it is Us
Then we too are torturers!
80,000 people illegally detained,
The ever increasing
On migrants and black human beings
On these very streets!)
We will NOT stay silent while
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice
(Obama says “look forward not back!”)
Reap the profits
Of corporate greed,
In Our names!
Call a criminal what- he- is!
John Yoo- Criminal!
John Yoo- Criminal!
Created a memo
To violate the Geneva Convention.
Which has justified
Thousands of unheard
Screams, pleas and tears,
Urine, vomit & spit.
In the blackest of days
Never to be seen again.
Charge them with war crimes!
And Get Up against torture!
Don’t wait for a savior,
No compromise with war criminals,
Be horrified that
Just like Us
And be wary,
What is used on them,
By unconstitutional law,