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Law Students Protest Bush Civil Rights Policies; 300 in California Buy Full-Page Ad
Published on Thursday, February 13, 2003 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Law Students Protest Bush Civil Rights Policies
300 in California Buy Full-Page Ad
by Kelly St. John
 

Three hundred law school students from across California took out a full-page ad in today's New York Times charging that the Bush administration has undermined constitutional and civil rights law with its war on terrorism.

The advertisement, which is running in the Times' western edition, lists the names of students from eight law schools across the state, including UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, UC's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and Stanford Law School.

"Tomorrow's lawmakers shouldn't have to answer for today's misdeeds," the ad reads. "As students of the law, we cannot stand behind a boundless 'War on Terrorism' that has eroded civil liberties, undermined international institutions, blurred the separation of governmental powers, and caused havoc in the communities we serve both here and abroad."

Abby Reyes, 29, a Boalt Hall student who co-founded the effort, said that students had begun working last fall to draft the ad and an accompanying policy statement, which is posted on the Internet.

"What we are learning in the classroom is very different from what is happening in Washington," Reyes said. "As law students, we have a role and responsibility in offering a wake-up call to our own profession."

All of the students paid at least $25 to be in the ad, while donations from faculty and other students covered the $18,000 tab to run it.

Mazen Basrawi, a 23-year-old Boalt Hall student who is Muslim and Arab American, said he had signed it because of the impact Bush administration policies such as racial profiling had had on his community.

"They are stripping noncitizens of what is left of their existing rights, and engaging in illegal foreign policy," he said. "It's those sorts of things that have affected our communities."

White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said he had not been aware of the ad before being contacted last night.

"People in the U.S. are free to peacefully protest and make their opinions known," Lisaius said. "It is a strength of our democracy."

But he added, "There are large numbers of people that very much support the president's fighting a war on terror and understand that a Saddam Hussein armed with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons would threaten not only his region, but the entire world."

Signing the ad in addition to the UC and Stanford students were those from UC Davis, Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, the University of San Diego, Golden Gate University and New College of California in San Francisco.

The edition of the paper carrying the ad is delivered to 200,000 subscribers in 13 states, according to the student group.

"The amount of time and effort that the students put into writing the ad, raising the money and collecting all the signatures from all over the state really demonstrates a depth of commitment and a level of concern that reflects an ever increasing opposition to the Bush administration's attack on civil liberties," said Lucas Guttentag, a Boalt Hall professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

California students said they had heard from other law school students -- including a group from several Boston-area schools -- who might pursue a similar effort.

"By the different schools in California coming together, it sends a stronger message," said Forest Wilkerson, a third-year law student at the University of San Diego. "We're hoping it catches on."

The ad and accompanying policy statement can be viewed at www.wakeupaboutthewar.org.

©2003 San Francisco Chronicle

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