Why Do We Go On and On about John Yoo?

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On April 29th a reader of this blog requested that we not protest at this year's Berkeley Law School graduation ceremony; see letter by Boalt Grad.

We had heard similar arguments before, and decided to open up a discussion of why people should (or shouldn't) use this occasion to speak out against the university's employment of Torture advocate John Yoo.

Please submit your comments and we'll post them here: 

Dear Boalt Grad:

I understand your desire to have a memorable graduation event with your
family...and it will be.  Think of what it will mean to the future
generations if this were to be the last class that graduated under the
shame brought to UC by the unethical acts of John Yoo.

Instead, take a stand yourself, and proudly encourage your fellow
students and family to wear the orange ribbon, and go from your
graduation knowing that with a clean conscience that your graduation
stood for something meaningful, profound and worthy of notice.	Help
send a message to Dean Edley that academic freedom does not protect
one's actions, only one's speech....

And as an alum...when you send your check to support your alma matter,
send a blank check with the words, FIRE JOHN YOO, until the university
sees the light and rescinds his tenure.

congratulations on graduating....you made it!!!!!
Dear Boalt Grad,
Your objection to protests of John Yoo being allowed to teach at UC's
Boalt Hall is puzzling to me. You say that you 'disagree' with his
actions as a legal advisor to George Bush; I wonder what you object to.

Apparently you feel that this is just a matter of different political
opinions, and not one of law, and the unequal application of 'justice';
a virtual coup against a democratic government.

Apparently you feel that those who will be protesting Yoo's presence at
Boalt Hall are just willful people who have no necessity to be there. 

And apparently you think that your graduation from law school is just
about you. I disagree. 

I wonder what your idea of 'public interest' law is.
I wonder what your idea of 'something more effective' would be.

I hope you follow 'mikeksf's advice. I know I'd be proud to be a part
of trying to end tyranny and fascism.

Congratulations, and I'll see you at graduation! 
- Alice

Dear _______:

Thank you for writing to express your opinion of our planned protest on May 14th. 

I find it interesting that you hope to work in public interest law, yet are asking that a protest that is clearly in support of the public interest be suspended so that you can "enjoy" your graduation. 

You say the graduation is not about Yoo, but the students.  I would say to you, that the protest is not about you or your graduation, it's about torture, and holding those responsible for it to account.  You should be far more disturbed by the fact that such a criminal element is teaching at your school, and being cloistered from the public eye as if he is above reproach, than the fact that there is going to be a protest about that same criminal element.  That kind of behavior from your school goes directly against the interests of the public and I am disheartened that you would not feel gladdened by our protest, since it actually goes to upholding the principles of the school that drew you there in the first place. 

The reality of your life at that school is that your school is being called out for its behavior and is being asked directly if that is their idea of justice.  Since you stated that you desire is to increase your access to justice, one would think you'd embrace that reality, not run from it, and be proud that a protest is occurring during your graduation because it shows you that the school you chose for its "wonderful traditional of supporting public interest law" is practicing what it preaches.  I would then ask you, is it practicing what it preaches?  Or is it having innocent protesters arrested for exercising their legal rights?  Is it practicing what it preaches, or is it harboring and protecting a criminal?  Can you really increase your access to justice if you're simultaneously acting to remove, limit or withhold that access to justice from the protesters and the public at large?  

It worries me that someone who has the interests that you claim to have, would put his own fleeting moment of "graduation pride" before the health of our entire community and country.

- Mallory

Think of the "protest" as an opportunity for discussion with your
family and friends who may not be aware of this issue.	Think of it as
opportunity to defend your own position, to use your new lawyerly
skills to defend your position regarding Yoo. Consider the
righteousness of this cause and the courage of those who have committed
their beliefs to making Boalt a more just and legal place.  Why come to
Berkley if not for this very reason.  The only thing I can think of
that would be more effective on May 14th would be for you to wear an
orange cap and gown.  Then you too would be courageous. 
- Mike K

xxxxxx: If you want to do public interest law, what could be more public
interest than protesting people in power who have been responsible for
sullying the public interest by advocating torture? What public interests
are there that are greater than this matter? Disagreeing with people who
commit atrocities isn't enough to end those atrocities. Such egregious and
monstrous behavior requires that people act in visible and significant ways
against those who have been responsible for those horrid acts. They cannot
be stopped otherwise. Voting, for example, for Obama who promised to end
torture, has not ended torture. Moreover, voting for Obama has not led to
prosecutions of the war criminals in the Bush regime such as John Yoo.
History has shown that only by breaching the norms of the ordinary workings
and activities, including ceremonies, of the system, such as the black
students who defied Jim Crow laws to sit at lunch counters and in the front
of the buses, college students who occupied buildings and shut classes down
in student led strikes to end the war on Vietnam, can terrible policies be
ended and public pressure be brought to bear on those who would otherwise
continue and co-operate with those terrible policies. 
- Dr Dennis Loo

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on May 11, 2010 11:25 AM.

It's going to take more than a new Judge to curtail Obama's abuse of power was the previous entry in this blog.

[2009 Graduation Speaker] Erwin Chemerinsky addresses challenges to citizenship and Miranda rights is the next entry in this blog.

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