Actionists in Clown Suits Intervene in CIA Recruitment Session at UCSB

‘A routine CIA information and recruitment session was suddenly disrupted on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara Thursday when a small group of student protesters walked in and lead a man with bound hands to the front of the room, where he was laid on a table and (voluntarily*) tortured with a CIA-approved technique used to simulate drowning, known as water-boarding. The CIA speakers were struggling to speak over the “torture victim’s” coughs and cries for help, while potential CIA recruits looked on with bewilderment at the incident.’

from The Daily Nexus, the UCSB student newspaper:

Students Protest CIA’s Torture Tactics
UCSB Students Dress in Clown Costumes to Denounce CIA, Follow Presenter Across Campus
By Evan Wagstaff / Staff Writer
Published Thursday, November 15, 2007
Issue 37 / Volume 88

Student protesters dressed as clowns follow a CIA representative from the UCen conference room to his car near Pardall Tunnel on Wednesday evening. The group interrupted the event to perform imaginary torture methods in order to deter recruitment at UCSB. ERIN SALDAÑA / DAILY NEXUS

The clowns interrupt the CIA informational meeting to criticize torture tactics and other allegedly negative influences of the program yesterday. They distributed pamphlets on campus and used the clown theme to try to make a mockery out of the CIA. ERIN SALDAÑA / DAILY NEXUS

A group of several protesters dressed in clown costumes and painted faces followed a CIA recruiter last night from his presentation in the UCen to his car behind the Thunderdome.

A CIA recruitment and informational meeting was taking place in a conference room on the UCen’s lower level, when, at 5 p.m., a group of protesters interrupted the recruiter’s PowerPoint presentation by placing one of their fellow clowns on the front table, binding his hands and arms, and pouring water on his face to simulate waterboarding torture in front of the presentation’s unsuspecting audience. The group also held a mock press conference citing historical torture statistics and played limbo with a fuzzy green boa before the recruiters quickly packed up their equipment and left the room.

The crowd of a dozen clowns and almost 50 onlookers followed the lead recruiter through the halls of the UCen, up and down two flights of stairs, and out to Storke Plaza, chanting “No torture at UCSB” and “CIA, go away.” The recruiter, who did not stop for comment, said only “I’m not in violation of anything,” before getting into his car at the lot next to Pardall Tunnel.

Jennifer Bamberg, a UCSB alumni and protester, was passing out anti-torture signs to fellow supporters in front of the UCen throughout the protest. She said students should reject the CIA and cited various allegations.

“It’s the fact that they practice torture since their inception,” Bamberg said. “They had a hand in the coup in Chile in ‘73, they go into places like Afghanistan and assure opium gets to poor black areas in the U.S.; they supported crop dusting in Columbia and poisoned thousands of families’ farm supplies.”

According to third-year environmental studies major Whitney Walberg, “Community Members Against War” is the unofficial group behind the protest. The group has no set roster of members, but serves as a place for concerned students to plan action. Walberg said that the group chose the clown motif to embarrass the CIA and make a joke out of their meeting.

“The reason they feel this is effective is because they completely make the situation a joke,” Walberg said. “It takes the seriousness and legitimacy away from the CIA. UCSB is one of the only UCs that the CIA recruits at and we want them to stop what they’re doing.”

After the recruiter left, Will Parish, the most costumed of the protesters, spoke against the CIA while in character as a high-pitched clown.

“All I wanted to know was if, by Western standards, it’s OK for me to tickle you in the butt if it’s okay for you to torture people,” Parish said. “That guy was an evasive asshole.”

The protesters also distributed pamphlets detailing several instances of alleged CIA international abuses.

First year zoology and film studies major Lindsey Parker said she heard about the event through Facebook and came to protest what she deemed as unacceptable practices by the CIA.

“We claim to support a peaceful cause but then we do shady things like this,” Parker said. “There are all sorts of barbaric acts that are going on.”

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

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