Daily Pilot: Arrested UCI students face possible DA Prosecution

Published Wednesday, February 10, 2010 7:12 PM PST

Education

Students arrested during Israeli ambassador’s visit to UCI could face disciplinary measures and possible D.A. prosecution.

Eight UC Irvine students and three UC Riverside students were arrested and detained Monday by campus police.

By Tom Ragan

Daily Pilot

Student protesters who were arrested by campus police for disrupting a speech at UC Irvine by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren could face a host of academic repercussions — from simple warnings, suspensions or all out expulsions, a spokeswoman for the university said Wednesday.

The university, which released the names of the 11 protesters, said that Monday night’s incident, in which the protesters repeatedly interrupted Oren at the UCI Student Center, will now be forwarded to the Orange County district attorney’s office for possible prosecution.

The protesters were cited for “disturbing a public meeting,” said Cathy Lawhon, UCI’s director of media relations.

Campus police ended up detaining them for about an hour before releasing them. No bond had to be posted, Lawhon added.

“I think everybody is entitled to free speech, but this was not that,” said Lawhon of the incident. “In the end, they were preventing him (Oren) from exercising his right to free speech.”

Three of the students were from UC Riverside and the remainder were from UC Irvine, according to the list provided by the university.

As soon as Oren was scheduled to speak about relations between Israel and the United States, there was no doubt that a protest was going to ensue.

The university’s Muslim Student Union even sent out a statement by e-mail, saying that it condemned and opposed Oren’s presence, who was brought to the university by the Law School and Political Science Department.

“We resent that the Law School and the Political Science Department on our campus have agreed to co-sponsor a public figure who represents a state that continues to break international and humanitarian law and is condemned by more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in the world combined,” the statement said.

But condemnation and opposition is one thing; not letting Oren speak was another. That, at least, was the opinion of some around Orange County.

“Free speech is about allowing people to say what’s on their minds,” said Rabbi Richard Steinberg of Shir Ha-ma’alot in Irvine. “It’s not about screaming and yelling. I’d like there to be peace over there. I’d like Palestine to be a state and Israel to be free and safe. I’d like for the Palestinians to be safe. But this sort of lack of discourse isn’t going to help. If you’re going to protest, protest in a respectful way.”

At the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles, Munira Syeda, a spokeswoman for the organization, cautioned that violence in the Middle East shouldn’t “spill over” into the United States.

She added, “We encourage both sides to have a discourse about the conflict. Each side has a right to share their concerns with the rest of the public.

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