Some 150 students donned hoods and turned their backs in silent protest of former Attorney General John Ashcroft at Cornell University on Thursday. Cornell law student and protest co-planner Michael Siegel told Truthdig the demonstrators were meant to represent “the detainees who were arrested and imprisoned without due process under Ashcroft’s leadership.”
“The coordinated action was a result of several meetings among student leaders and community activists. Our goal was to present a powerful, critical response to Ashcroft’s Patriot Act and other oppressive policies. We wanted to engage as many people as possible in creative rebellion. We looked at examples of prior demonstrations including the Columbia protest of the Minute Men, as well as protests of Alberto Gonzalez and other Bush administration officials. We discussed the most likely attack on our work: i.e., that we would ‘suppress free speech’ by protesting.
“Ultimately, a coalition of labor organizers, liberals, hippies and radicals managed to reach consensus on this direct action. We stretched the limits of our ‘campus code’ regarding dissent and presented an example of what unified action can achieve. All of us are excited about the result: We owned the room for 20 minutes. After we stood up, Ashcroft stammered and said he did not know what to do. Only after the campus Republicans shouted ‘Keep going!’ did the former AG attempt to regain his flow. We stood silently, disciplined and determined, forcing the crowd to consider the victims of Ashcroft’s oppression.”