About 15 community members gathered outside of the UC Berkeley School of Law on Wednesday afternoon to protest and call for the removal of campus law professor John Yoo.
In particular, the protesters raised issue with Yoo’s legal opinions regarding war tactics and presidential power, calling for his firing. Yoo, who was announced as an endowed faculty chair in June, has drawn controversy for his legal memoranda regarding “war on terror” policies, dubbed the “Torture Memos.”
Among other points, the memos, written during Yoo’s time as deputy assistant attorney general under the administration of former president George W. Bush, provide legal arguments to assert that the Geneva Conventions — treaties governing the humanitarian treatment of war — did not apply to prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and advise on the use of controversial interrogation techniques.
“He’s shaming the law school, shaming the community and shaming Berkeley by being the endowed chair,” said Berkeley resident Cynthia Papermaster.
Community members from the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute and other organizations participated in a “rally and street theater.”
The group performed a miniature play in front of Boalt Hall, where Papermaster dressed as a caricature of Yoo while holding a printed copy of the constitution. They later mimed his arrest after he was “caught” tearing and subsequently burning the constitution.
Papermaster, as Yoo, was brought before a man playing U.S Attorney General Eric Holder for “indictment, investigation and prosecution.”
“(The play) was a wonderful statement by our community about how we feel about John Yoo in our midst,” Papermaster said after the play. “We feel he’s a criminal, we feel he should be indicted and prosecuted and investigated.”
Ann Ginger, founder and executive director emeritus of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, said Yoo should be teaching his students that there are international humanitarian laws that apply to the United States — laws that she said he violated when he authored the memos.
“He violated the law when he said that the power of the president was greater than the power of the court, and he violates the law when he teaches that the military is more important than the civilian parts of our government,” Ginger said at the protest. “For all of these reasons, John Yoo should resign, and since he’s not going to resign, he should be fired.”
Yoo has been a campus professor since 1993. From 2001 to 2003, he was the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Yoo was not on campus during the protest, having left on sabbatical for the semester.
“I’ll just have to miss the protest this time,” Yoo said in an email. “I hope the protesters are not too disappointed. But I think that, to reverse Seinfeld, ‘it’s all about them, not me.’ ”
Staff writer Jeff Landa contributed to this report.