11 Muslim Students Charged with Conspiring to Disrupt Israeli Ambassador's Speech Kristina Chew, February 12, 2011
Eleven California students have been charged with conspiring to disrupt a meeting and speech by the Israeli ambassador to the US at the University of California, Irvine, last February. The students all attend UC campuses and are all members of the Muslim Student Union. After the incident, the students were suspended for a quarter and many in the university thought this sufficient; the case has fueled debates about free speech on college campuses.
According to the February 5Los Angeles Times, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas has stated that the misdemeanor criminal charges were filed against the students because the students made an "organized attempt to squelch the speaker" and that that they "meant to stop this speech and stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting."
The New York Times describes the February 8, 2010, incident:
When the ambassador, Michael B. Oren, came to speak last February, several students stood up, one at a time, and interrupted him with shouted complaints about Israel. When the repeated outbursts continued deep into Mr. Oren’s speech, the ambassador huddled with his security aides to decide whether to continue speaking. He did, but by the time the speech was over, 11 Muslim students had been arrested.
The students have come to be known as the 'Irvine 11,' though three of the students attend the University of California, Riverside. They have said that the protest was not an activity planned by the Muslim Student Union; nonetheless, an investigation by UC Irvine officials has found that 'the group had coordinated the protest in an effort to shut down the event.' Prosecutors contend that students had held meetings and exchanged emails to plan the disruption of Oren's speech.