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Protesters who disrupted Israeli ambassador at UC Irvine charged by prosecutors

The Orange County district attorney’s office on Friday charged 11 defendants with conspiring to disrupt a meeting and a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States at UC Irvine last year.

The move comes after about 50 protesters rallied in front of the Orange County district attorney’s office Tuesday. Though some have criticized the students’ method of protest, many said that university punishment was sufficient enough for the “Irvine 11,” as the students came to be known.

In a statement, Orange County Dist. Atty.Tony Rackauckas said the case was filed because of an “organized attempted to squelch the speaker.” He also said the students “meant to stop this speech and stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting.”

“We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy,” he said. “We cannot tolerate a pre-planned 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 Muslim Student Union, which denied planning to obstruct the speech, was suspended by the university. It was one of the first instances in recent memory in which the school recommended the ban of a student group for an action other than hazing or alcohol abuse. Individual students were also disciplined by the university.

The Feb. 8, 2010, incident sparked a debate about free speech at the campus after a group of students disrupted a speech by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Oren was shouted down repeatedly, and supporters cheered as students were escorted away by police.

The students are accused of meeting with other members of the Muslim Student Union to discuss options to respond to the speech as far out as six days before the event.

According to prosecutors, students circulated e-mails and held multiple meetings to plan the disruption of the speech. One of the students is accused of sending an e-mail to the MSU-UCI message board announcing that “we will be staging a University of Chicago Style disruption of the Ambassador’s speech.”

Approximately 500 to 700 people had assembled for the meeting, authorities say.

Eight of the defendants are students at UC Irvine and the other three were students at UC Riverside. Each is charged with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one misdemeanor count of the disturbance of the meeting. If convicted, they could be fined and/or sentenced to probation with community service or six months in jail.

The students will be arraigned March 11 in Santa Ana.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Comments () | Archives (144)

There is a line between legitimate protesting and disrupting your target’s free speech rights. What bothers me about this incident is that far more violent protests by the ADL and JDL against groups they have issue with are rarely prosecuted. There is an obvious double standard at work.

Amazing that there are those who speak of free speech so that they might deprive others of said right. Free speech does not and never has meant the right to yell and otherwise disrupt another persons right to be heard. You have a right to be heard. You do not have a right to squelch another persons right to be heard no matter who's side your on. They speak, you speak, they speak, you speak etc. It's called a civilized society.

the muslim brotherhood is coming to a town near you!

I can't believe what I'm reading below!! You people really don't get it?!? In the US, we are allowed to peaceably assemble and speak our minds, as long as it doesn't incite violence against someone else, and even if we don't necessarily agree with what someone else is saying. This is called 'free speech,' and guaranteed by the first ammendment to the Constitution of the US, the law of our land. To allow a person, or a group of any kind, to stop someone else from exercising their right to peacefully assemble and to speak their mind is illeagal and amounts to the violation of someone else' right to free speech; it is NOT exercising free speech to keep someone else from exercising theirs. Without fs, we give up the right to be free and allow ourselves to be ruled by others who would suppress us and our ideas and ideals. Many of us, our family and friends fought wars and many died so you and I could enjoy these rights we take so for granted, and IT IS A BIG DEAL when anyone tries to infringe on these rights in our free land. Wake up!

To all apologists and appeasers, stop your nonsense and codling of hooligans that do not respect other people rights and free speech…. These students are not innocent kids, they are bullies who exploit the hospitality and openness of a democratic society and deliberately planned their disruptions in order to shut down the ambassador speech under the guise of academic freedom…. BUT NOT TO OTHERS just for themselves like spoiled kids…. Since they elected to live here in the USA, they have to learn not only to enjoy its privileges but also their responsibilities. Hopefully a court of justice will teach them that, since they obviously failed to learn this lesson on UC campus from their progressive teachers

I believe freedom of expression is very important like burning books and drawing cartoons.

This is nothing but over reaching and pandering by the DA. Their is no cause for filing felony charges in this case. There was no property damage and no one was injured. If we are going to say that any time two or more people join together to protest something they can be charged as a criminal conspiracy, we better start building a lot more prisons. They should be charged with misdemeanor disturbing the peace and pay a fine and maybe be put on probation for a year or two - that should be the end of it. I do not support these muslim students or their agenda, but this is going way too far. And no, I am not a muslim, and in fact am jewish. However, this does not mean that I blindly support Israel or their action. I have in fact openly disagreed with actions the Israeli's have taken on more than one occaision. Do not confuse being jewish, which is a religion, with being Israeli, which is a nationality. I am an American who happens to be jewish.

Wow, free speech is not free and suppose to be protected by law. The injustice this poor guy has to suffer not only from having 3 family members die in Gaza with Israeli firepower, but this overreaction is just awful.

A SAD day in America.

Israel has become a driving force in American foreign policy and sadly most Americans, outside of Zionist brass in government, don't know at all.

Free Speech is FREE speech. The punishment DOES not fit the crime.

This is what the Nazis did in Germany at meetings. Shout down any opposition and not allow them to speak. Free speech must rule or throw away the 1st amendment.

Get the heck out of America...........Israel will be protected at all cost, you barbarians need to go away.

I love it, get rid or all these hate America criminals. Lets see them do that in their sahria law countries-they would never be seen or heard again. Just Leave now!

Expel and deport.

These students were expressing their views, but this was an attempt to drown out and silence someone they did not agree with. Our right to speak must be respected and protected. These students should respect the abassodor's right to express his views, and, if desired, counter the ambassador's remarks as they see fit in another arena. Their intent was to block the ambassador from speaking and this must be stopped. Attending the ambassodor's speech was a voluntary activity and if they disagreed, they should have not attended. If our ability to express views can be disrupted by rabble rousers simply yelling over us, then we are society as we know it is over. A few hours of community service might actually do these students good.

I think it's time to start doing this. I am 100% for freedom of speech, but by this group conspiring to stop a legal speech by the Israeli, they not only took away his right to speak, but they took away hundreds of people's right to hear him. This happens all the time on campuses across the country, usually aimed at "conservative" speakers. The Muslims should have had a counter speech somewhere else. Do we really only want one side of the political spectrum to give their point of view? Do we want "mob rule" sensorship of who speaks in our society...NO!

I total agree with the district attorney. This is a country of laws. Would we get half the rights we give them here in their countries. People of religions other than Islam are killed, murdered and slaughtered EVERY DAY, in Muslim nations! We just don't hear about it. Look it up on YouTube and the web people. Look at the recent murders and attacks on churches in Egypt! Optic Christians are killed and intimidated almost daily. Wake up America, wake up!

Nice to see a prosecutor standing up to Muslim fascists.

There is zero tolerance for Muslim-American and Arab-American intimidation and threats of violence at UC Irvine. These evil hoodlums should be expelled and jailed for threatening the Israeli Ambassador in Feb. 2010.

I would like some explanation on exactly what law they are being charged with. Is there in fact a law in California that says heckling is illegal? Also I would like to point out that those who keep trying to shift the subject to how Muslims are violent, don't respect free speech in their countries, etc..., are most likely paid agents of disinformation not citizens voicing there opinion.

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