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Did protesters who disrupted Israeli ambassador's speech deserve to be criminally charged?

February 5, 2011 |  9:04 am

Students protest in support of their UC Irvine classmates, who were disciplined by the university after disrupting a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas pulled no punches Friday when he charged 11 students with conspiring to disrupt a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States at UC Irvine last year.

Talk back LA"We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy," Rackauckas said. "We cannot tolerate a preplanned violation of the law, even if the crime takes place on a school campus and even if the defendants are college students. In our democratic society, we cannot tolerate a deliberate, organized, repetitive and collective effort to significantly disrupt a speaker who hundreds assembled to hear."

The Times' Nicole Santa Cruz reported that backers of the so-called "Irvine 11" have said they were just practicing their free speech rights and committed no crime. But  Rackauckas claims they made an  "organized attempt to squelch the speaker."

What do you think about the charges? Share your views here.

Photo: Students protest in support of their UC Irvine classmates who were disciplined by the university after disrupting a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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