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John Yoo is probably getting used to catching flak about his role in the U.S. prisoner abuse scandal. He does, after all, teach at UC-Berkeley. Yoo, a Boalt Hall School of Law professor since 1993 and author who previously clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was teaching a class on constitutional law Tuesday morning when several protesters entered and disrupted his class. At least two of the protesters wore orange jumpsuits, while another held one of them on a leash, evoking images of Iraqi prisoner torture by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison. Several protesters with a group called The World Can’t Wait later staged a silent protest outside Boalt Hall along Bancroft Way, where they passed out flyers to students promoting a national “walkout” on Nov. 2. No law students appeared to be involved with the protest. “We’re forcing students to confront that this is actually happening in the real world,” said Federico Garcia, a student organizer with the group. “We’re challenging students to take a stand: Are you for this torture or against it?” Even before his government service, Yoo had developed a high profile as a conservative academic. But he attracted the wrath of anti-war protesters in 2002 when a memo he helped author outlined reasons why the Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment didn’t apply to al-Qaida and Taliban members. At the time, Yoo was serving as deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. In a UC-Berkeley Point of View article written in January, Yoo defended his earlier memo, stating that the Geneva Conventions “legally do not apply to the war on terrorism because al-Qaida is not a nation-state and has not signed the treaties.” While Afghanistan is party to the Geneva Conventions, Taliban members “did not meet the conventions’ requirements that lawful combatants operate under responsible command, wear distinctive insignia and obey the laws of war,” Yoo wrote. Protests have become a routine fact of life for Yoo. Just last week Woo participated in a discussion at Dartmouth College about prisoner treatment when he was confronted by protesters, according to the school newspaper. Last year, UC-Berkeley students upset about his role behind the memo circulated a petition demanding Yoo either renounce U.S. policies regarding the treatment of alleged terrorists held as prisoners or resign from the university. Yoo doesn’t always toe the Bush administration’s policy line. In a Washington Post opinion piece earlier this month, Yoo criticized the president’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court, calling it a missed opportunity to change the court. Jason Curtis, a UC-Berkeley student majoring in astrophysics who participated in the protest, said protesters wanted students and others to “confront reality.” Yoo declined to comment Tuesday.

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