On Saturday, May 17, U.C. Berkeley’s School of Law held its graduation ceremonies. As graduates approached Boalt Hall for the reception, they were greeted by protesters.

In fact, more than just “greeted” — they had to run a gauntlet of demonstrators just to reach the entrance to the party.

Why would anyone protest a law school graduation? Because Boalt Hall is home to controversial law professor John Yoo, who in 2002 co-authored memos which theorized that the President of the United States would not be liable under the War Crimes Act if under times of national emergency he sanctioned “enhanced interrogation techniques” to get information from terrorism suspects. Setting aside whether or not “enhanced interrogation techniques” count as torture, and whether or not Yoo’s opinions were legally sound, it should be noted that the Bush administration formally repudiated the memos, and the Supreme Court rejected some of Yoo’s arguments, so the memos’ actual importance seems to be wildly overblown. Yoo’s opinion seems to be based on the argument that Al Qaeda terrorism suspects are unlawful combatants and thereby are not protected by the guidelines of the Third Geneva Convention, which they themselves violate — so they would have no legal basis for complaint if they were mistreated in custody. I’m not going to get involved in the cacophonous debate over the significance of these papers, which have come to be called “torture memos” by Yoo’s detractors. The internet is awash in information — and even greater amounts of misinformation and disinformation — about Yoo’s opinions, so if you’re interested you can Google his name for an avalanche of conflicting claims. This photo essay is just a report on the protest of May 17, not a legal brief.

Most of the protesters seemed to be members of various communist groups — primarily World Can’t Wait, but also (as seen here) the Spartacus Youth Club, among others.

Also present was a large contingent of 9/11 Truthers.

In fact, if you looked closely, most of the pre-printed signs (even those carried by protesters with other affiliations) seem to have been supplied by the Truthers.

As it turned out, the protest had reached its crescendo hours earlier a few blocks away when attendees were filing into Berkeley’s Greek Theater for the commencement ceremonies. There’s no way I’m getting up at 7am on a Saturday morning to cover a protest, but luckily Paul Chinn of the San Francisco Chronicle was on hand to capture the early-morning action. I arrived just as the protesters departed the Greek Theater and relocated to the reception at Boalt Hall, creating a surrealistic parade of John Yoos down Gayley Road.

The shadows across Yoo’s face gave the (unintentional) impression that he was already behind bars, which is exactly what the protesters were wishing for. Should a professor be fired and jailed for expressing unpopular views? If he’s a conservative professor, a lot of people would apparently say “Yes.”

Photos of the Abu Ghraib scandal were propped up around the reception, a sure way to garner sympathy from all the parents and students trying to have a celebration.

And while the majority of celebrants tried their best to ignore the protest, a surprisingly large number proudly wore the orange ribbons handed out by World Can’t Wait at the entrance to the reception. Did these people even know they were identifying themselves with a radical communist group? Doubtful.

Back up on the sidewalk, even the BP furries made an appearance — last seen at the Oak Grove Tree-Sit Anniversary Protest.

As a final aside: I’ve more and more begun to notice a substantial amount of overlap among the various far-left political groups behind these protests. For example, this World Can’t Wait member protesting against John Yoo was also seen in my previous report as a member of “Queers for Palestine” at the Nakba-60 Palestinian Festival a week ago. A woman of many identities!