9-10-11 Days One & Two of War Criminal Protests in NYC
Thursday., Sept. 8, 11:00 am – A small number of protesters organized by World Can’t Wait and CodePink arrived outside the Russian Tea Room to announce to passersby on West 57th Street – via a banner, posters and leaflets –that the war criminal Donald Rumsfeld was in the vicinity.
Thursday, Sept. 8, 5:00 pm – 10 people gathered outside the University Club. While we did not see John Yoo, we saw quite a few "grim country-clubbers" and young Ivy League type attorneys go in. Some people entering assured us they weren't going in to see Yoo. But others stated that Yoo "kept you alive" and other such nonsense. We stood our ground when the Club’s security tried to get us to move. Again, our war criminal posters were very effective and we gave out flyers to real people passing by. Out on 5th Avenue, where it was Fashion's
Night Out, the hipsters and the tourists were reading at least the headlines. One out of 500 people going by came for a flyer; there were European tourists and other people who followed the news and knew about Yoo. So Yoo and company really knew we were there.
Thursday, Sept. 8, 7:00 pm – A crowd of approximately 30 protesters – organized by War Criminals Watch/World Can’t Wait, Witness Against Torture and CodePink – rallied outside the 92nd Street Y where war criminals Donald Rumsfeld and Michael Mukasey were to be on a panel with Michael Medved and Ari Fleisher. The audience was composed almost entirely of solid neo-cons and other right-wingers and hard-line Zionists, with only a few exceptions who thanked us afterward for protesting. Six people from Witness Against Torture were in jumpsuits outside and we had lots of great posters, a banner and much chanting.
The strategy for the night seemed to be pre-emptive arrests and removals. Six protesters went around the corner to protest at the rear entrance where the speakers were entering. Three were arrested there for failing to move when one of the plain-clothes police told them to (They were behind the barricade. When asked why they had to move they were told it was because he said to). Even stranger was that five other people were tracked down in their seats before the event began and removed by security. They were doing nothing but sitting in the seats they had paid for.
A bit late, the panel started. All speakers concentrated on why a strong lethal US military is crucial to maintain security in the world after 9/11. Ray McGovern stood up and turned his back while Rumsfeld was speaking, with his Vets for Peace shirt on, and was removed after a few minutes. A while later, after one of the questions referred to the protesters outside and inside as “liberal losers” a CodePinker threw Rumsfeld arrest warrants down from the balcony and called out for his arrest after which she was quickly removed. As the summation period came at the end, and Rumsfeld began to speak, two World Can’t Wait representatives got up and called out “Our grief is not a cry for war. Pre-emptive war is a war crime according to international law, the Geneva Conventions and US law.” They were forced to leave as the audience booed.
Friday, Sept. 9, 10:00 am – John Yoo was part of a “Separation of Powers” panel at the “Civil Liberties – 10 Years After 9/11” conference at the New York Law School. A War Criminals Watch representative was there who stood silently holding aloft a large Prosecute John Yoo poster with his mug shot on one side and “Shame on Yoo” on the other. Security approached her and told her that the NY Law School preferred she sit down and put the poster away. Although she preferred to stand and hold the poster, after continued arguments from the security people she sat down and placed the poster on another chair. However, when John Yoo said the protester was no longer there, she stood up with the poster and called out, “Still here.” Security then confiscated the poster. As the discussion on civil liberties continued, with John Yoo saying that they’re stronger now than ever, she stood again with another smaller Prosecute John Yoo poster. This time security tried to grab the poster and pull her out. She then called on all the lawyers in the room to protect her civil liberties and her right to stand there silently with a sign with a message which millions of people around the world support. Security said she wasn’t being silent. She said she had been until they came over. The result was that for the rest of the day protesters were allowed to hold signs and distribute materials and the confiscated poster was returned. It was made clear that security was not to interfere with the civil rights of attendees. FireJohnYoo.org pamphlets were distributed to attending attorneys.
In the afternoon, two more protesters arrived who held Prosecute Michael Chertoff posters while he spoke. Ray McGovern asked Chertoff a question about John Walker Lindh. In his reply about how long Lindh was held before being brought to trial, Chertoff explained how that’s far from unusual as many other prisoners suffer the same fate. When McGovern asked a follow-up question, the chair of the session said he was “obsessive” and that no one was really interested. However, Anthony Romero of the ACLU, another panelist, stepped in and answered the question.
Many lawyers thanked us for being there.
by Stephanie Rugoff