While I was at Harvard Law School on Friday, the reunion was underway, but who knew what was in store...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 28, 2007
CONTACT: DEBORAH POPOWSKI, NATE ELA
HLS ADVOCATES FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
GONZALES EMBARRASSED AT HARVARD REUNION
Attorney General Surprise Visit at 25th Reunion Met by Student Protests
Cambridge, Mass. - Alberto Gonzales was confronted by student protesters and forced to leave through a back door on Saturday during a visit to Harvard Law School for his 25th reunion. After two weeks clinging to save his job and defending allegations that he fired eight U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, what might have been a relaxed day of reminiscing with old classmates became instead yet another reminder that both his job and his reputation are in serious jeopardy.
The Attorney General was on campus, unannounced to students, to deliver a lunchtime speech. But word quickly spread that a suspicious motorcade had been spotted by the campus center, and by the time Gonzales and his fellow classmates assembled on the law library steps for their class photo, a group of current students were there to greet him, having donned black hoods and orange jumpsuits. As the photographer told the class of 1982 to smile and say "cheese," the students yelled out that saying "torture," "resign" or "I don't recall" might be more appropriate.
The Attorney General's visit to his alma mater coincided with the third anniversary of the release of photos depicting the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and came the day after a German federal prosecutor dismissed a case alleging that Gonzales was responsible for approving the policies that resulted in those abuses. These facts were not lost on Deborah Popowski, a second-year law student who had just finished organizing a nationwide student sit-in urging Congress to pass pending legislation that would restore detainees' rights to habeas corpus. "When I heard he was on campus, I was stuffing envelopes with letters to Congress in an office two floors above. I dropped everything. Gonzales needs to know that after approving poorly-reasoned memos that distort the rule of law and justify torture, he is simply not welcome here."
At a time when many in the nation are calling for Gonzales to resign, one third-year student managed to communicate the mood of his own alma mater directly to Gonzales. While the Attorney General's security detail kept protestors at bay and the photographer prepared the class photo, she slipped though the law library's front doors and approached Gonzales from behind. "On behalf of many other Harvard Law students," she said, "I'd like to tell you that we are ashamed to have you as an alumnus of this school. And we're glad you're here to be able to tell you that." Gonzales thanked the student and offered to shake her hand, but was refused. After the class photo was taken, several of the Attorney General's classmates clapped and approached the protesting students to thank them for their efforts.
Following the group photo, Gonzales ducked into the library to take a stroll around the main reading room, which, on the weekend before final exams, was full of students going over their notes. When the protestors caught up with Gonzales, the cavernous reading room, ordinarily a place of hushed whispers, echoed with chants of "shame" and "resign." Gonzales was quickly whisked down a back staircase, out a basement emergency exit and into a waiting SUV. As the motorcade pulled off from in front of historic Austin Hall, Thomas Becker, a second-year law student, stood in an orange jumpsuit and black hood, waving goodbye. When the cars were out of sight, Becker pulled off his hood, smiled, and said "good riddance."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, second row from top, center, poses with members of the Harvard Law School class of 1982 as law student protester Thomas Becker looks on.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, holding number 588, poses with classmates from the Harvard Law School class of 1982 as law student protester Thomas Becker looks on.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Harvard Law class of 1982 and holding number 588, poses for a reunion photo as Thomas Becker, a second-year law student, looks on.