Over 100 students gathered in Storke Plaza yesterday to protest President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping policies during “Impeachfest,” which featured presidential impersonations and the throwing of peaches at the national leader’s effigy.
Students for Impeachment hosted the rally and brought local Isla Vista band Iration to play a set. Impeachfest included speeches from retired UCSB sociology professor Dick Flacks and Students for Impeachment member and third-year political science major Jake Thorn.
Second-year political science major Patrick Donahoe donned a plastic George W. Bush mask at the event and gave a sarcastic oration, and the rally also featured a voter registration drive and a bank of local representatives’ phone numbers and e-mails.
Thorn said Bush’s orders permitting warrantless surveillance of citizens’ telephone calls and e-mails violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which authorizes the government to collect foreign intelligence information through surveillance, but also includes limitations of that power.
Thorn said the act created a panel of judges to provide judicial oversight on federal wiretaps. However, he said, President Bush has sidestepped the panel, causing one of its judges to resign in protest.
In the president’s 2005 year-end White House press conference, Bush said he had the right to use warrantless wiretaps.
“To save American lives, we must be able to act fast and detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks. … I swore to uphold the laws,” Bush said, according to a transcript of the speech. “Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely.”
First-year political science major Laura Petersen, who held a sign that read “Don’t Spy On Me, George,” said she supported the impeachment of Bush because she believes he is violating the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits illegal searches and seizures.
Flacks said he disapproves of the entire Bush administration.
“[It is] an unholy mix of religious beliefs, superpower nationalism and free market utopianism,” he said.
Veterans for Peace member and sociology Professor Emeritus Thomas J. Scheff alleged that the Bush administration has violated U.S. laws on several occasions.
“I think our government has been on a crime spree for the last five years, and they will continue to do that for the next three years unless we do something about it,” Scheff said.
However, many students and faculty members disagreed with the rally’s purpose or supporters’ strategies.
College Republicans chairman and third-year business economics major Tim Cully said his organization did not counter-protest at the event because they did not believe it was significant enough. The group counter-protested at a Students for Impeachment rally on March 11.
“There are no new issues since [the last rally], and there wasn’t a high attendance at the rally, so it wasn’t worth our time to get out and counter-protest,” Cully said.
Political science professor Robert W. Rauchhaus said he was unsure of the rally’s effectiveness.
“I’m not an expert on constitutional law, but it’s my understanding that impeachment starts in the House of Representatives, and not in Storke Plaza,” he said.