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10 protest on campus in support of Guantanamo Bay hunger strike

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APRIL 29, 2013

A group of about 10 activists protested on campus Monday in solidarity with the 100 prisoners who are on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Protesters donning orange jumpsuits to resemble the Guantanamo Bay prisoners knelt silently with bags wrapped over their heads while speakers called for the university to fire UC Berkeley professor of law John Yoo for his connection to the alleged use of torture in the detention camp.

“We want to bring attention to the hunger strike, since it’s been 88 days since prisoners have begun to protest against the facility’s systemic human rights abuses,” said Stephanie Tang of The World Can’t Wait, an organization that aims to stop the use of torture to glean vital intelligence.

Speakers targeted Yoo for his legal justification of the Bush administration’s interrogation policy during his term as deputy assistant attorney general.

“The UC’s reputation is stained by the presence of John Yoo on its faculty, so we want to see the university fire and discipline him,” Tang said.

Despite the criticism, the university has continued to employee Yoo, who is a tenured professor. Campus administrators have defended this decision because of their stated commitment to maintaining academic freedom and security of employment.

In a 2008 statement, UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley said that while Yoo has “offered bad ideas and even worse advice during his government service,” disapproval of his legal philosophy alone does not warrant his removal.

“I reject the argument that academic freedom justifies Yoo’s position at the law school, since it is not a license to commit human rights abuses,” said Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

Buttar said that academic freedom defense may not hold if Yoo is prosecuted by a court of law because the General University Policy Regarding Academic Appointees stipulates that the “commission of a criminal act that has led to conviction in a court of law by a faculty member” is an example of unacceptable conduct that could be grounds for dismissal.

“I’m more interested in seeing John Yoo finally face prosecution for (his) international crimes, as required by the law, than in any accountability the university might pursue,” Buttar said.

In the past, Yoo has maintained that he was giving legal advice to the Bush administration and was not involved in creating actual policy.

While most students passed by the protest in the daily afternoon rush, its organizers believe that regardless of how many people attended the vigil, it served its purpose of informing the public.

“The truth has to be open to people, and through this vigil, we’re out to change that,” Tang said.

Contact Jason Liu at [email protected].

MAY 01, 2013