Go Natsu!

March 25, 2009

Ward Churchill’s wife, Natsu Saito, took the stand today, and, naturally, knocked it out of the park. From the Daily Camera.

Ward Churchill rested his case shortly before 10 a.m., following 11 full days of testimony in Denver District Court.

The University of Colorado has called Todd Gleeson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at CU, to the stand.

Before Churchill rested his case, his wife gave highly emotional testimony while speaking about her husband’s work and the troubles the couple faced in the aftermath of his controversial essay on 9/11.

The courtroom was mostly empty, a sharp contrast to the packed house that was present during the last two days of Churchill’s testimony.

Natsu Taylor Saito broke down while describing how the University of Colorado effectively discredited her husband’s life work and his attempts to challenge the dominant version of history and give traditionally oppressed ethnic groups a more complex and thorough story of their past.

“He calls out the big lies in history, not these ridiculous picky things we’re aruging about here. The most harmful thing to Ward, and to me, is that it was an attempt to silence that history,” Saito said, her words disappearing in a flow of tears.

Saito, a professor of law at Georgia State University who used to work in CU’s ethnic studies department, said she remembered being with Churchill at her home in Atlanta on Sept. 11, 2001 when terrorists struck New York and Washington, D.C.

She testified that they kept hearing television commentators describing the attacks as senseless.

“Ward said, ‘Whatever these are, I don’t think they are senseless,'” she told the jury.

Saito said they weren’t surprised by the attacks and that Churchill felt like a valuable lesson could be drawn from the tragedy.

“If we want to stop violence from happening, we have to understand that its not OK for violence to be perpetrated by anyone, including our own government,” Saito testified.

Churchill attorney David Lane asked if her husband was cheerleading for the terrorists.

Saito said no.

Churchill wrote a controversial essay about the day in which he lambasted U.S. foreign policy and compared victims of 9/11 to Nazi technocrat Adolf Eichmann.

Three-and-a-half years later, when the essay was widely publicized and caused a firestorm across the country, Saito said her and her husband’s world became like “Alice in Wonderland,” where nothing made sense anymore.

She said the ethnic studies department received “thousands” of “ugly, racist” emails and letters, a couple of which Lane put up on the screen for jurors to see.

One read: “Tell Ward my ancestors killed a lot of Indians and I’m proud of it.”

Saito said professors, especially in the ethnic studies department, began to fear for their jobs because the tenure system came under attack from both the Colorado governor and the General Assembly.

“They were afraid, they were scared their protections would be eviscerated by this review (over tenure),” she told the jury.

She said CU afforded no protection to faculty against external pressure once the uproar was in full swing and never responded to a letter professors sent the school asking it to stand up against the racist assaults.

“All of the university rules were being completely turned on their head,” Saito said. “It was like every rule they had on the books was going out the door. It was exhausting and frustrating. There was a lot of sense of abandonment. All these people who said, ‘Yeah we got your back’ were suddenly nowhere to be seen.”

She testified that she left the university in May 2006, around the time her husband was found guilty of academic misconduct.

“I realized this was an untenable situation,” Saito said. “I was really upset because the university failed to take a principled stand.”

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