UC Muslim students appeal conviction
Orange County Register | January 24th, 2013
Ten former and current Muslim students have appealed misdemeanor convictions stemming from their disruption of an Israeli diplomat’s speech at UC Irvine.
In a 77-page court document filed Tuesday, attorneys for the students contend the convictions were unconstitutional, based on trial court errors, and that prosecutors failed to prove the students violated the law.
Irvine 11 students appeal conviction
Los Angeles Times | October 19th, 2011
Ten Muslim students convicted of disrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador at UC Irvine last year filed appeals Wednesday, arguing that the law used to convict them was vague and unconstitutional.
Dan Stormer, an attorney for the defendants, said the current law makes lawful protest unlawful. “When we censor free speech we are taking away one of the fundamental issues that has made our democracy, not survive, but thrive,” he said.
Dan Mayfield, another defense attorney, said the statute is subjective and puts protesters at a disadvantage. “It’s only not acceptable when you stand up and you say something that is in opposition to the speaker,” he said.
Irvine 11 attorneys file appeal
KPCC | October 19th, 2011
Civil rights attorneys planned to file an appeal in Orange County today on behalf of Muslim students convicted of disrupting the Israeli ambassador’s speech at UC Irvine last year. The lawyers hope to know in eight to ten months whether the appeal will go through.
Attorneys for the 10 Muslim students say the California law on which a jury convicted their clients last month is unconstitutional.
Lead attorney Dan Stormer contends that as written, the misdemeanor law criminalizes in California forms of political speech the U.S. Constitution protects.
Students Sit-In and Speak Out Over UC Irvine 11 Guilty Verdict
The Bottom Line – UCSB | October 18th, 2011
Students and faculty of different creeds and ethnicities gathered at the foot of Storke Plaza for a sit-in protest to speak out against the recent Irvine 11 verdict and what many called an institutional decision to silence student activism.
“Today is a national day of solidarity and a national day of action,” said Sophia Armen, a third-year political science and global studies double major. “Actions like this are happening across UC campuses.”
“The judge even recognized that the guilty verdict was excessive and he reduced their punishment,” said Armen, who also serves as an Off-Campus Representative on UCSB’s Legislative Council. “It is apparent that there is an attack on student expression. It’s overwhelming that rhetoric can be thrown around like conspiracy. Conspiracy is a really loaded term for planning a protest.”
Unprecedented silencing of dissent at UC Irvine
Jerusalem Post | October 16th, 2011
Due to an imbalance of power, to effect real change ordinary citizens must challenge state power outside of this framework. We did not wish to politely ask questions but rather to make a poignant statement. We came to protest Israel’s actions, and a Q & A session was not the means through which we wanted to act. An effective protest must voice its opposition in a manner that challenges the policies Oren represents and the framework through which those policies are propagated. Protesters who threw tea into the Boston Harbor, who sat-in at segregated lunch counters, who marched against South African apartheid, and who are now protesting for their basic human rights across the Arab world all understood this crucial distinction.
Acts of protest must be judged by their ability to empower marginalized voices to speak out and demand their basic human rights, whether in Iran or Irvine. The First Amendment has long recognized the importance of that value, despite the district attorney’s attempt to chip away at this protection. Only by upholding this right can we protect the free exchange of ideas and the potential for social change.
Israeli officials will continue to meet protests in the United States and around the world as long as they uphold unjust policies like the ones that caused three young girls to be orphaned. Of all institutions, I would expect a newspaper to support our right to free speech and to protest injustice loudly.
The UC Irvine 11: District Attorney Attacks Free Speech Rights of Students Nationwide
Imagine 2050 | October 13th, 2011
Frighteningly, this case appears to set an imposing precedent for curbing student activism. If students are to face criminal charges whenever they choose to voice their personal beliefs on any issues, particularly political ones, then our jails will be filled with college students.
Regardless of whether you agree with their approach or their political stance, the Irvine 11 were simply expressing their views in a peaceful manner. They should not have criminal records haunting them for the rest of their lives…
Our college campuses have traditionally been a front line for social and political debates, particularly during the Civil Rights movement. Today still, student must be allowed to exercise their own right to protest nonviolently, and to participate actively in our democracy by questioning authority and institutions.
So we as students are now tasked with reclaiming our rights to speak freely and demonstrate openly.
The Irvine 11, the Police, and the Autonomy of the University
Jadaliyya | October 12th, 2011
The case of the Irvine 11 surely points to more than what I gesture here: the institution and proliferation of Islamophobia and its relation to Orientalism and the history of racism in America, the question of Palestine and everything we continue to receive under the heading “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the state of Israel and its relation to American policy in the Middle East and North Africa, if also elsewhere, and more. But with all of this, the case of the Irvine 11 is also an event about the university. It remarks the increasing marginalization of the university institution in relation to others, indexing its deepening privatization, and pointing to its persisting capture by the logics and institutions of capital and the state.
There is no university without the interruption of the other—all of the others, without exception, and without end. The case of the Irvine 11 points to the urgency of this. We abandon it, and them, at the risk of ceding the university, of giving it away, marking our complicity with the erosion of an institution, and a way of thinking, that we need now perhaps more then ever.
UC Berkeley students demonstrate in support of Irvine 11
Daily Cal – UCB | October 11th, 2011
The UC Berkeley Muslim Students Association staged a silent demonstration on Sproul Plaza Tuesday in support of the Irvine 11 — a group of UC Irvine and UC Riverside students arrested for disrupting the speech of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the campus in February 2010.
The protest was part of a larger day of solidarity occurring across the University of California that was organized by the group Stand with the Eleven.
“Awareness is the beginning of the process of getting people involved to express their concerns of the silencing of dissent and student protest,” said Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the campus Department of Near Eastern Studies, who was present at the demonstration.
Silence is not an Option
Al-Bayan – UCB | October 11th, 2011
I am not going to tell you about how responsible and upright these students are. I am not going to tell you about how they consulted with lawyers and carefully planned the protest beforehand to stay within legal limitations. I am not going to tell to you that what occurred is normative in the context of a political meeting. But I will tell you that some of those students had family and friends who were massacred in Operation Cast Lead, which was in part orchestrated by Michael Oren. I will tell you that more than 1400 people died that winter in Gaza and the infrastructural damages to schools, homes, mosques and businesses have not been addressed till this day. I will tell you that during the bombardment a friend of mine called his family back home in Gaza asking them how they were doing, to which they simply replied by sticking their phone outside the window so that he could hear the sounds of constant bombs and missiles in the background. I will remind you that Palestinians do not have the privilege of silencing this reality, let alone speaking about it.
Irvine 11 conviction reveals double standard and bias
Mondoweiss | October 11th, 2011
In both protests, each person who stood up to bring attention to crimes committed by the Israeli government acted non-violently, and cooperated fully with security personnel and the police. So what was the difference? Why were we not arrested, charged and tried while the Irvine 11 were? Logically, the opposite should have been true: our target was bigger – the Prime Minister of Israel; our venue was bigger – the largest Jewish event in North America; and our protest came later – inspired in part by the brave actions of the Irvine 11. But there is one more difference, and it proved to be the crucial one: we are Jews and the Irvine 11 are Muslims.
We stand with the Irvine 11 as they move forward with their appeal, as we stand with all those who refuse to be cowed by state repression in the struggle for social justice.
Irvine 11 conviction sets a dangerous precedent, attorney says
Case dismissed against Muslim student
Orange County Register | October 7th, 2011
Unlike the other 10 who shouted scripted statements during Oren’s talk, Kebir was among a group of students who got up and left the auditorium chanting, his attorney Robert Hickey said.
In addition, Hickey said the charges against Kebir stemmed specifically from an attorney-client privileged document that prosecutors should not have had and the judge ordered turned over to the defense.
Accepting the prosecution offer to do community service in exchange for case dismissal was the right thing, given “the amount of burden it was putting on my parents and would have put on them,” said Kebir, after Friday’s brief court hearing at which Wilson dismissed the case against him.
“This could be potentially dangerous for freedom of speech and student activism in general,” he said.
More on Irvine 11: Meet the Real Michael Oren
Veterans Today | October 7th, 2011
In the United States of America if you are a brave Muslim and if you peacefully stand up in front of an audience being addressed by an American- born Israeli who supports Israeli war crimes you can be convicted of a crime. On the other hand, if you are a brave Jew or a brave Arab who is smart enough to be surrounded by a few brave Jews, you can peacefully stand up in front of an audience being addressed by an Israeli war criminal and you will not be charged. That which cannot be tolerated is Muslims acting on their own against Israeli usurpation of Muslim and Christian lands. With no Jewish cover, the Muslims have no standing.
Speak Up, But Not Against Israel
American Free Press | October 7th, 2011
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, but apparently not to U.S. citizens who happen to be Muslim who wish to speak up against Israeli propaganda in their own university. Arrested, prosecuted, tried, convicted (by a jury of their “peers”), and sentenced, all for daring to heckle the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. You can discuss anything at all in this great country, except for one thing. How did that happen? Listen to the interview with the president and co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, as he discusses the case against the Irvine 11, and what this means for our rights as Americans vis-à-vis Israel and the Jews.
Free Speech, the Pro-Israel Lobby, and the Case of the ‘Irvine 11′
The Nation | October 6th, 2011
Why is it so alarming that the MSU was banned? Protests are commonplace and controversy is tradition at university campuses. Disrupting a speaker doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of offense a student would face criminal charges for, or for which a registered group of over 250 students would be collectively punished. The MSU organizes more than 300 events annually for its members and for the larger campus community. Most events promote interfaith dialogue, humanitarian efforts and spiritual learning.
The “Irvine 11” are no pioneers, in fact, in 2005, Harvard University looked strangely like UCI. Norman Finkelstein was invited to speak by a student group and was disrupted repeatedly by shouting protestors, who even forced him to stop speaking temporarily. The students, many of whom were members of Harvard Students for Israel (HSI), technically violated the school’s Protest and Dissent Guidelines, and the Harvard Crimson even condemned the protest in an editorial. The Oren situation at UCI is hauntingly reminiscent of Finkelstein at Harvard in 2005, just reversed, but the Harvard Students for Israel suffered no consequences whatsoever.
Irvine 11 Attorney Reem Salahi Speaks On Implications Of The Case
Neon Tommy – USC | October 5th, 2011
“This is a case very much about balancing what is protected versus what is not protected speech. The issue of whether they should be convicted or not really comes down to issues of whether their speech is protected. Obviously our view is their speech was protected by the First Amendment.
Therefore, it was unlawful for the prosecution to file the charges in the first place. They should not have been convicted of those charges. Again this is another issue that on appeal… This is basically the crocks – the question is whether their speech was protected or not and whether it can be criminalized or not. We clearly think that it was protected and we don’t think that it was appropriate for it to be criminalized.”
Keep Practice of Heckling Alive
Central Florida Future – UCF | October 5th, 2011
Heckling, by itself, should not be made illegal. Those hosting events should reserve the right to have disruptive individuals removed from them. To take it a step further and have them arrested and face trial could instill fear into those who might be seeking to question public officials. A person could become afraid of being arrested for asking a question that is too pointed or for questioning an official too aggressively about a topic.
“The extraordinary resources required for the criminal prosecution and trial of these  young men — including having the head of the district attorney’s homicide division leading the effort — would have been better used to fight crimes that endanger the residents of Orange County than to chill speech and discourage student activism,” Villagra said.
Irvine 11 Case: A War of Words
New University – UCI | October 4th, 2011
Eliminating a certain viewpoint only detracts from the college experience of the students. After all, where can freedom of speech possibly exist if not at a university? An institution specifically designed to house educated discourse and promote the exchange of ideas?
For the same reasons, students who express dissent with the views of a speaker should not be facing criminal charges. What consequences exist for disrupting a speech, if any, should be left to the discretion of that specific university. Involving the District Attorney, who prosecutes transgressions on the order of rape and homicide, is not only tremendously disproportionate, but also wholly counterproductive.
If anything, the criminal trial of the Irvine 11 has escalated campus tensions and polarized the UC Irvine community even further by dramatizing the case as a media spectacle. As such, it sends an entirely inappropriate message from the DA’s office. While only time will tell if the misdemeanor is ever removed from the records of the Irvine 11, the trail of polemic rhetoric and sensational headlines left in the wake of the case, however, have left a tangible dent in campus climate. Instead, the campus should provide a welcoming environment for opinions from all ends of the political spectrum, irrespective of who provides them.
Editorial: Irvine 11 guilty as charged, but conviction sets dangerous precedent
Highlander – UCR | October 4th, 2011
There was nothing threatening or inordinately hateful about their interruption. They stepped out of line, to be sure, but nothing marks their transgression as any more vile than a thousand others that have gone unnoticed before it. There is, then, some form of discrimination at play in the controversy.
One can hardly help but notice that, from the beginning, the Irvine 11 case has been characterized as a Muslim issue. Pundits and politicians alike regularly frame the debate in terms of “Muslim rights,” and it is often assumed that the group was, either directly or indirectly, speaking for the Muslim community when they shouted Oren down.
Many have argued and will continue to argue that the Irvine 11 are victims of racial/religious profiling, and it would appear that the argument is not without merit… The moment we begin to treat one individual’s rights with more severity than another’s, we lose sight of the principles that those rights are designed to uphold.
US academic and cultural BDS campaign condemns convictions of Irvine 11
Electronic Intifada | October 4th, 2011
The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) today joins a growing coalition of civil rights and advocacy organizations around the globe in condemning the shocking verdict in the Irvine 11 trial.
… It is appalling that these Arab and Muslim American students are being criminalized for protesting the human rights violations in the Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-09 that left at least 400 children dead and destroyed numerous educational institutions. We call for a reversal of this outrageous verdict that makes a mockery of freedom of political expression and that has already had a chilling effect on campus activism.
‘Irvine 11’ case motivated by politics, discrimination
Orange County Register | September 29th, 2011
If anyone questioned the motive behind the criminal prosecution of eight UC Irvine and three UC Riverside students, Tony Rackauckas’s recent column in the Register leaves no doubt that it was politically and discriminatorily motivated. Now that the gag order has been lifted, Rackauckas’s office desperately seeks to repaint itself in a sympathetic light following the tremendous outcry in Orange County and across the nation against the aggressive and unprecedented prosecution.
In Rackauckas’s self-righteous rant, he conveniently ignores the time and hefty monetary resources expended in this vendetta prosecution. Similarly, Rackauckas is notably silent about the serious misconduct of his top attorneys and investigator who acquired and maintained privileged communications and used at least one attorney-client communication to bring charges against a student. As a consequence, three top district attorneys and the lead investigator were removed from the case weeks before trial. While Rackauckas espouses illogical claims about the First Amendment, he never mentions that his office undermined the students’ Fifth Amendment rights to due process and against self-incrimination during its prosecution.
If anyone has acted like organized thuggery, it is Rackauckas and his office. They preyed on the weakest and most vulnerable elements of society: youth, students and religious and ethnic minorities. They employed the mighty power of the state to obtain the private emails of the defendants and other students from Google, AOL and Hotmail and then compelled university administrators and students to testify before a grand jury. They maintained and relied upon privileged communications in violation of the law. In their aggressive prosecution, Rackauckas and his office acted in complete juxtaposition to the will of the universities and the local and national communities, as seen by the countless petitions, emails, editorials and columns. They have criminalized dissent based on its content and engaged in a racist and selective prosecution of students that chills our collective First Amendment protected activities. This prosecution has been an affront to the constitution and our concept of justice.
‘Irvine 11′ evidence released by Orange County district attorney
Los Angeles Times | September 29th, 2011
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas on Wednesday released emails and court documents used in the trial to convict 10 Muslim students on criminal charges of disrupting a speech.
The so-called Irvine 11 were each convicted of two misdemeanors Friday for disrupting aUC Irvine event featuring Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in February 2010.
The students face fines, probation and 56 hours of community service. Defense attorneys say they will appeal. Charges against an 11th defendant were dropped pending completion of community service.
The evidence includes two videos from the event, multiple email chains from the students who planned the disruption and minutes from meetings of the Muslim Student Union, an organization that has denied planning the protest but whose members were involved.
Prosecution overzealous in ‘Irvine 11′ case
Daily Pilot | September 29th, 2011
Historically, county district attorneys have demurred from pursuing legal action against University of California students in cases of alleged minor crimes and misdemeanors when these incidents occur on university property. Instead, they have appropriately elected to honor the well-enumerated due process procedures in place at each of the UC campuses.
In the case of the so-called “Irvine 11,” UC Irvine officials promptly investigated charges that a small group of students disrupted a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. In this matter, UCI found the students in violation of campus policies and meted out punishments both against the individuals and their organization, the Muslim Student Union. Conventional wisdom and historical precedent would suggest that the matter had been handled appropriately.
The nagging question is why did Orange County District Atty. Tony Rackauckas feel compelled to jump on this case and, in so doing, assign his chief homicide prosecutor to vigorously pursue misdemeanor charges against 11 students with no prior records and who were clearly no threat to society?
DA: Emails show students conspired to disrupt speech
Orange County Register | September 28th, 2011
The emails released Wednesday represent a “tiny fraction” of the thousands of emails exchanged between the students, said Jacqueline Goodman, who represented some of the students. Not all were allowed into evidence; Goodman said some show that the students were consulting with lawyers and changing their plans up until the day of the protest to conform with the law.
The email release “is just further evidence of selective prosecution,” she said. “These U.S. citizens are still being treated differently than any other student protesters in Orange County’s – and possibly California’s – history.”
Verdict called ‘travesty of justice’ as Muslim students who heckled Israeli ambassador found guilty
Anglican Communion | September 28th, 2011
Gasps and muffled weeping filled the packed Southern California courtroom as a clerk read the unanimous verdicts for the ten defendants: guilty of conspiracy to disrupt a public meeting and guilty of disrupting a public meeting. Each charge carried a possible maximum six-month jail sentence.
Immediately, more than a dozen supporters of the students, known as the “Irvine 11″, angrily walked out of the courtroom, muttering, “This isn’t justice.”
Marya Bangee, a spokesperson for Stand with the Eleven (http://www.irvine11.com), said she was surprised and saddened by the verdict. “Obviously, this is emotionally devastating for people of conscience. This is going to have repercussions for freedom of speech for every American. But, we’re going to fight this,” she added.
Remember, remember the Irvine 11
Diamond Back Online | September 28th, 2011
College campuses have historically been the epicenter of the American social and political conscience. From the civil rights movement to the Vietnam War to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, college campuses have hosted the robust debates and free flow of ideas that are vital components of the American identity. Regardless of whether you agree with their approach, the Irvine 11 were simply expressing their views much like many protesters before them.
Protesters commonly flirt with unacceptable behavior, but authorities rarely pursue disciplinary action. When Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) yelled “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s health-care speech to Congress, he was only asked to apologize. When two individuals interrupted Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame, they were simply escorted out. This selective enforcement undermines our judicial system and is unfair to the Irvine 11. UC Irvine’s sanctions on the Muslim Student Union were a sufficient consequence.
I deeply respect the courage of the Irvine 11 — they embody the passion and the voice that drive student activism. Martin Luther King Jr. told us “the greatness of America is the right to protest forright.” The conviction of those 11 students is a conviction of the entire student voice. It is a conviction of the very freedom of dissent and intellectual liberty that defines our universities.
Irvine 11 Case Against Muslim Students Sets Dangerous Precedent
Color Lines | September 28th, 2011
For many observers, the outcome and the fact that the case even went before a Grand Jury at all brings up troubling questions about how censorship laws may be used to stifle progressive speech, particularly by people of color speaking out against politically charged issues.
Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, calls it a double standard of justice. “When students take over buildings to protest tuition hikes it is not only tolerated, but welcomed as an exercise of free speech. But in this case it is considered a criminal act.”
The ACLU of Southern California called the case “unprecedented” and worries that it will have far-reaching implications for future protests by students of color.
“This raises the question whether the DA may have acted because of the students’ message, which would clearly violate the First Amendment,” the group said in a statement. “Even if protests on college campuses occasionally cross a line from protected speech into conduct, prosecutors cannot selectively intervene to punish students who say things they do not like.”
‘Irvine 11’ verdict is one that infringes the rights of all Americans
September 28th, 2011 | Daily 49ers
In a country that sets its democratic ideals as precedent for the rest of the world, one would assume that its constitutional rights would prevail under any circumstances. Regretfully, all of this has changed, as the verdict of the “Irvine 11″ case was guilty on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011…
It is no secret that protests are a common practice among college campuses. If students were criminally charged for every university protest that took place, our jails would be filled with undergraduate students. The prosecutors argue that the protestors heckled Michael Oren and were disruptive to the meeting.
Sure the student protestors were rude, but since when did being rude become a crime in America? Israel is responsible for abusing international human rights laws and committing genocide against the Palestinians for decades. For these students to speak truth to power was an act of bravery.
The right to free speech was infringed upon these students because they were Muslim. The Prosecution had dubbed this case as the “UCI Muslim Case,” as reported by the OC Register.
The High’s and Low’s of the Irvine 11 Trial
Orange County Register | September 28th, 2011
The discipline handed out by UCI to the student protesters was more than enough. The court case was a huge waste of money. But this case was never about the law; it is about foreign and domestic politics.
The key issue is that the speaker that had his lecture interrupted was from the “sacred cow” of United States foreign policy in Israel, and the protesters were Muslim students. Speakers have their lectures, political and otherwise, interrupted on college campuses and other venues all the time. Unless there is violence it never becomes a legal issue. Furthermore, if the speaker had been the ambassador of Bolivia or Iceland, the story would never have made it into the Register, let alone become a big news topic. The DA was not concerned about the law, but about gaining cheap political points.
So Mr. Oren had his speech interrupted and was inconvenienced. This inconvenience is nothing compared to the suffering the Palestinian people face on a daily basis. They live under the brutal occupation that results in the loss of their land, homes and freedom of movement. Sadly all this is made possible by the enabling and funding by our own government.
In closing, many universities will not allow Mr. Oren to lecture. Some universities in the United States also divest themselves from companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation. This is the same policy many schools had against the apartheid government of South Africa. That is a very telling point. I wonder what UCI’s policy is? Perhaps the Register needs to investigate that.
Aljazeera | September 26th, 2011
On Friday, Shaheen Nassar addressed a crowd of reporters and community members outside the Orange County Superior Courthouse in Santa Ana, California, less than 30 minutes after the presiding judge in the Irvine 11 trial sentenced Nassar and his co-defendants to community service and informal probation. The judge declared, to his credit, that jail time would be “inappropriate” due to the fact that the defendants were motivated by their personal beliefs, that they had clean records, and were productive members of the community.
“I intend to continue my activism, to give voice to the voiceless, including [those of] my cousins who died during the Gaza massacre. And the 1,400 other civilians who lost their lives during that massacre as well,” said Nassar.
Whatever the motivations were for bringing this case as far as it went, it is clear that the attempt by the District Attorney – and the University of California – to instil fear and threat of legal consequence for young people of conscience speaking out and protesting has fallen flat on its face.
Los Angeles Times | September 26th, 2011
The room was packed full of people who gathered to applaud an unlikely bunch: a group of men who had been convicted of misdemeanors less than 48 hours ago.
The men — part of the “Irvine 11″ found guilty of disrupting a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren—told those gathered at the Islamic Institute of Orange County of their activism and expressed gratitude for community support. At one point, the nine men stood to applause.
“I honestly don’t see myself as a hero,” said Khalid Akari. Akari said he had the support of his family, lawyers and the others involved. ”I never had to stand alone in this,” he said.
Walid Nassar, the father of Shaheen Nassar, said his son is not a hero.
“He was just doing his job,” he said. “He’s not the first one and he’s not going to be the last one.”
Mother Jones | September 26th, 2011
Civil rights groups were dismayed by Friday’s ruling. Hector Villagra, the executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, believes the conviction could have a chilling effect on freedom of speech for college students across California: “If allowed to stand, this will undoubtedly intimidate students in Orange County and across the state and discourage them from engaging in any controversial speech or protest for fear of criminal charges,” he told Mother Jones.
Villagra also worries that the content of the students’ speech may have been what attracted the district attorney’s attention. Similar cases in the region have not resulted in charges, which “raises the question whether the DA may have acted because of the students’ message, which would clearly violate the First Amendment,” Villagra says. “Even if protests on college campuses occasionally cross a line from protected speech into conduct, prosecutors cannot selectively intervene to punish students who say things they do not like.”
Indeed, last year an attorney for the Irvine 11 told Mother Jones that she had seen an internal OCDA email with the subject line: “UCI Muslim case.” Wagner, the Orange County assistant DA, claimed that was only “shorthand” for the students’ group involved, the Muslim Students Union.
Why the Irvine 11 are true American heroes
The Electronic Intifada | September 26th, 2011
The conviction of the Irvine 11 is a testament to the degree that Islamophobia has grown in the West. Moreover, it is a testament to how unwilling the United States has become to question its relationship with Israel. Any means can be used to silence such questioning — even the criminalization of free speech.
What are the implications of the conviction of the Irvine 11 for Palestine solidarity student activists? One can only imagine the worries that now must run through the minds of these young students: Will I be seen as a criminal? Will the Israeli authorities deny me entry to Palestine next year due to my activism, when a cursory Google search can easily show that connection? Am I jeopardizing my future job opportunities as a result of my activism? Am I being, or am I going to be, investigated or targeted by the FBI?
One must keep in mind that these students now living in fear are Americans. Their intentions and passion for social justice is an American value. Yet student activists are now vulnerable to being criminalized This fear of criminalization may even echo into social justice movements which have yet to form, so essentially what the Irvine 11 conviction represents is a campaign to instill fear in anyone seeking to challenge the status quo in American politics.
Irvine 11: Guilty of Speaking Truth to Power
Solidarity | September 26th, 2011
It is noteworthy that while all of the Irvine 11 are Muslims and members of the Muslim Student Union, at no time did they ever bring religion into the issue. Their message was purely political, as evidenced by the statements they shouted which made reference to war crimes and genocide, not to Islam and Judaism. Some of them even lost family members in the 2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, making their opposition to Michael Oren personal as well as political. Yet the DA’s office referred to the Irvine 11 as the “UCI Muslim Case” and compared them to the KKK in interviews with the media. By attempting to depoliticize the protest against the Israeli ambassador and make it about ‘scary, intolerant Muslims’ rather than legitimate criticism of Israeli policies, the DA could send a message of intimidation to student protesters while appearing to his reactionary base to be defending them against the ‘Muslim threat.’
The Orange County DA assigned Dan Wagner, the head of his homicide unit, as the prosecutor in the Irvine 11 trial. (Apparently there were no homicides in Orange County he needed to investigate). The prosecutor took the DA’s approach of depoliticizing the case, playing up the religious factor by asking a witness to testify whether the defendants prayed before the protest and to describe their prayer, and seeking to remove this protest from the larger context of student protest as a whole at UC Irvine and other universities. The judge bought into this disingenuous depoliticization, claiming that protests against tuition hikes and budget cuts at UC Irvine were “irrelevant” and refusing to allow the defense to address them, despite the fact that some of the Irvine 11 had participated in such protests, and that all of them saw themselves as part of a tradition of student protest and a movement that made connections between occupation in Palestine, austerity measures in Irvine, and other issues.
Guilty Verdict for UCI 11
Highlander News- UCR | September 26th, 2011
“I am appalled by this verdict. These students were only guilty of speaking up for what they believe in, how can they call this justice?” stated third-year biology major Sabeen Dagher. Fellow third-year Abeer Khatib shared similar sentiment, denouncing the verdict as “an act of discrimination in an attempt to silence the voices of innocent students trying to spread awareness for those without a voice worldwide.”
Students and concerned community members have already begun donating to the Muslim Legal fund of America (MLFA) to help pay for the legal costs faced by the defendants. The MLFA is a charity that provides financial support for cases that “[impact] civil rights and liberties in America.”
The case has taken a special meaning for some, especially Muslim leaders who have denounced the case as an example of Islamophobia.
Religious News Service | September 26th, 2011
“We’ll be filing the notice of appeal within 30 days of the verdict,” attorney Reem Salahi said Monday. “Obviously there’s issues that came up in the trial that we’d like to appeal. We are concerned about the constitutionality of the statute… against disrupting a public meeting.”
“What a waste of tax dollars — 300 potential jurors that had to be selected for a misdemeanor jury trial,” Al-Marayati said.
Al-Marayati said the case represents, “an initiation of our community into the broader civil rights community. In terms of unfair treatment within the criminal justice system, other minorities have had to deal with these issues, and I think our community now is being instituted into this club.”
Lawyers at ‘Town Hall’: UC Muslims will appeal
Orange County Register | September 25th, 2011
The UC Muslim students found guilty Friday gathered at a “town hall” meeting along with their supporters at a local mosque on Sunday to talk about the verdicts against the 10 students, while their attorneys promised to send the case to the highest courts, if necessary.
“We’re going to stand up and fight this,” attorney Jacqueline Goodman said, “even if it means going to the Supreme Court.”
“This case,” IIOC President Samer Soubra told the crowd of about 250, “will affect my children, your children and all generations to come.”
Eight of the convicted students stood in front of the crowd, thanking their supporters and talking about their experiences.
Mohammad Qureashi stood up and apologized to the gathering.
“I’m really bad at public speaking,” he said. He paused, then added: “But I guess I was really good in front of (Israeli Ambassador) Michael Oren!”
Dead Poets Society Lied: What the Movies Don’t Teach You About Student Resistance
Huffington Post | September 25th, 2011
“There is no doubt in my mind that the District Attorney selectively prosecuted,” said Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Greater Los Angeles Area, “because the students were Muslim, the speaker was an Israeli diplomat, and the verbal protests centered on Israel’s long history of war crimes.”
It strains credulity to think that the politics of the speakers didn’t affect the decision to prosecute. Had this been a raucous student council meeting about the cost of tuition, the case would have ended in a campus administrative hearing. You’d be laughed out of any prosecutor’s office if you tried to turn it into a criminal case. Most hecklers not only avoid prosecution, but get a bigger platform because of their disruptions. Anyone remember Rep. Joe Wilson and Joe the Plumber?
In Orange County, Muslim Americans have other reasons to believe that there’s a double standard for free speech. Earlier this year, Villa Park City Councilwoman Deborah Pauly protested an Islamic charity event and exclaimed, “I know quite a few Marines who will be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise.” Just this month, San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Derek Reeve said at a council meeting that he named his dog Muhammad to intentional provoke Muslim Americans and make a statement about free speech. These incidents explain why Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, described the verdict as keeping an “open wound” in the community.
Muslim Students Verdict Sparks US Outrage
OnIslam | September 25th, 2011
“Absolutely unbelievable,” Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, said. ”I believe the heart of America has died today.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California said it was troubled by the anti-Muslim ruling.
“If allowed to stand, this will undoubtedly intimidate students in Orange County and across the state and discourage them from engaging in any controversial speech or protest for fear of criminal charges,” said executive director Hector Villagra.
The Irvine 11: Islamophobia is alive and well
Aljazeera | September 24th, 2011
At most, these students are guilty of displaying a lack of courtesy by interrupting Oren, but one could very simply argue that the brutal occupation of Palestine, the ethnic cleansing of Bedouins within Israeli boundaries and the major attacks on Lebanon are the discourtesies, not the voicing of opposition to these policies and to those who promote them.
Prosecuting the Irvine 11 has reeked of the anti-Arab, Islamophobic, anti-Palestine and pro-Israeli stance that we are more and more forced to accept as the status-quo, as the US moves further away from what might be considered a democracy
The United States already spends billions of dollars annually to support the Israeli occupation and is also spending well into the six figures to prosecute these students who spoke against it. This is a “selective and discriminatory” investigation and prosecution of Muslim students – because it was an Israeli official speaking, and because it was Muslims who protested.
Enough. The Orange County District Attorney is selectively prosecuting the students for political reasons and singling them out, based on their faith.
Irvine 11: Sentenced to Community Service, No Jailtime; Attorneys Prepare to Appeal
Electronic Intifada | September 24th, 2011
Shaheen Nassar: “Despite the prejudicial nature of the charges filed against us, and the actions of the University administration, I want to say that I respect the court’s decision, however I would like to emphasize how proud I am of my actions on February 8 . I intend to continue my activism, to give voice to the voiceless. Including my cousins, who died during the Gaza massacre. And the 1,400 other civilians who lost their lives during that massacre as well. May God rest their souls.”
Even though the sentence was relatively light, the attorneys said that they would immediately be filing an appeal to overturn the decision, and would take it all the way to the Supreme Court in order to protect legitimate protest and free speech. Attorney Lisa Holder, expressing pride in her clients, said that the students “stood up for their conscience, they stood up for their beliefs, and they stand out in a world that has become very apathetic.”
Holder added that she was excited to work with them in the future to help “overturn certain laws which are not fair and which do not allow us to voice our beliefs and to intently voice our conscience.”
Irvine Muslim Students Convicted of Shouting at Israeli Ambassador
The Nation | September 24th, 2011
In a trial that never should have taken place, ten Muslim students at UC Irvine were convicted Friday of disrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador on campus last spring.
The convictions made headlines around the world—Google News lists 465 news articles. It wasn’t just the Islamic and left-wing press that objected to the trial. The Los Angeles Times in an editorial called it “a case that never should have been filed.” Even the Orange County Register, a Republican newspaper, said the verdict “chills speech,” and called the case an example of “selective prosecution” that had been “used arbitrarily.”
A group of 100 faculty members, including five deans, had asked Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to drop the charges, arguing that the students had already been punished by the university—which also banned the Muslim Student Union for one quarter last year—and that further punishment was wrong. The group Jewish Voice for Peace also condemned the prosecution, delivering a petition with 5,000 signatures to the DA at the start of the trial.
Verdict called ‘travesty of justice’ as Muslim students who heckled Israeli ambassador are found guilty of misdemeanor charges
Episcopal News Service | September 24th, 2011
After the Sept. 23 court proceedings, defense attorney Tarek Shawky called the students heroes.
“This conviction, this jury verdict, should be worn as a badge of courage,” he told a gathering of media representatives outside the courthouse. “They (will) go down in history with great Americans like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who also were convicted for their beliefs, their integrity, and their convictions.”
Attorney Lisa Holder said the students “stand out in a world that has become very apathetic.” She said the defense team will appeal the conviction and expects “to make some changes in the law to make room for this type of dissent, which is valid, which is important and which is critical to our democracy.”
US students convicted for disrupting speech
Aljazeera | September 24th, 2011
“We’re going to continue fighting this. We’re going to appeal this decision,” supporter Marya Bangee, 25, said outside the court.
“These men to us represent our struggle for civil rights in this country and for them to be found guilty and sentenced for speaking their minds is devastating for us all.”
The charges drew an outcry from civil liberties advocates and Southern California’s Muslim community, who say the students were unfairly singled out for prosecution even though similar protests are common at universities and do not result in prosecution.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Berkeley, California, Liz Jackson from Students for Justice in Palestine, said that this conviction was a “disgrace to the criminal justice system”.
“This is a political witchhunt trial that reminds me of what I studied about McCarthyism in the 1950s,” she said.
Arab and Muslim students are more vulnerable when they protests because of Islamophobic sentiments, but trials like this are actually encouraging more students to speak out against Israel, Jackson said.
10 UCI students guilty of disrupting speech
ABC 7 | September 23rd, 2011
Editorial: ‘Irvine 11′ verdict chills speech
Orange County Register | September 23rd, 2011
…Prosecutors are wrong in arguing that the free-speech implications of this case end there. Selective prosecutions have a chilling effect on political speech. The First Amendment is of little value if criminal statutes can be used arbitrarily to quash offensive speakers.
We wonder if the same group of UC Irvine students had interrupted a campus lecture on chemistry or biophysics, would the District Attorney’s Office have filed criminal charges? The case would have been an administrative matter to be resolved by campus officials. Dr. Craig Smith, director of the Center for First Amendment Studies, said, “If the defense can show that the UC Irvine rules can be applied in arbitrary and capricious ways, they might win the case on appeal,” he said.
Kifah Shah, a spokesperson for the Stand with the Eleven Campaign, promised that’s an option defendants are “absolutely” considering.
’Irvine 11′: Islamic group calls verdict ‘death of democracy’
Los Angeles Times | September 23rd, 2011
Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council, called the “Irvine 11″ guilty verdict the “death of democracy in our country.”
He said the verdict reflects a “growing malaise of Islamophobia” in the United States.
Ameena Qazi of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, “When history books are written and this case comes to its final conclusion … the Irvine 11 will stand alongside other civil rights heroes.
“We were remaining optimistic and hopeful that justice would prevail, which at this point it hasn’t,” she continued. “I hope that this case goes forward and that free speech prevails at the end of the day. At this point we’re all losing — we’re all losing our rights.”
‘Irvine 11′: UC Irvine says it supports free speech
Los Angeles Times | September 23rd, 2011
UC Irvine is reacting to the verdict Friday against 10 Muslim students guilty of two misdemeanors to conspire and then disrupt a February 2010 speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States at the campus.
“UC Irvine, which fully and actively supports the lawful expression of free speech, completed its disciplinary procedures in this matter last year and considered those sanctions sufficient,” the university said in a statement. “We nurture a campus climate that promotes robust debate and welcomes different points of view.”
Muslim students convicted of being mean to Israeli ambassador
Gawker | September 23rd, 2011
Last year, when Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren announced his intention to speak at the University of California at Irvine, some members of the school’s Muslim Students Union plotted to inform Oren of their feelings about some of Israel’s policies. They used their voices to do so. This is illegal!
According to an attorney for one of the students, the longest of the interruptions lasted roughly 8 seconds, and the total amount of time taken up by their outbursts—combined—was roughly one minute.
That’s one minute too long when you’re talking about Muslim students interrupting the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. to inform him that some people think his country’s policies are unjust, which is illegal, so don’t do it.
Muslim students get probation for disrupting speech
Reuters | September 23rd, 2011
Defense lawyers said they would appeal the convictions, saying their clients, all honor students who already did volunteer work in their communities, had the right to carry out the kind of protest that is common on college campuses.
One of the 10 convicted students, Mohammad Qureashi, 21, told Reuters after the sentencing that he was “proud to be an American” despite the verdicts. Qureashi said he was born in the United States to Pakistani parents.
“I would never have thought in my craziest nightmares that something like this would make you a criminal,” Qureashi said.
Were the ‘Irvine 11′ student protesters singled out for being Muslim?
Multi-American KPCC | September 23rd, 2011
he free speech component has made the case national news, but there have also been allegations of ethnic and religious bias, with some pointing to a climate of discrimination against Muslims that in the last year has prompted actions ranging from protests against the building of mosques to hate crimes directed at people perceived to be Muslims.
This week, the Orange County Register ran an opinion piece from the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ executive director and staff attorney Ameena Mirza Qazi titled “Irvine 11’s’ speech infringed because they’re Muslim.”
Appearing as a guest on AirTalk today, Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, said the incident should have been handled by the school instead of the courts, blaming “the politicized nature” of the conflict between Israel and Muslims over the issue of Palestine for why it went as far as it did.
‘Irvine 11′ students plan to appeal convictions
Los Angeles Times | September 23rd, 2011
Attorneys for “Irvine 11″ students convicted of disrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador at UC Irvine said they plan to file an appeal and vowed that the case is far from over.
The controversial case, which many viewed as a fight over free speech, ended Friday with a guilty verdict for the students, but with a sentence of no jail time and three years’ informal probation.
After the verdict, some of the students said they were proud of their convictions.
Khalid Akari said he “stood up against the face of oppression” in the Feb. 8, 2010, incident.
All of the different Irvine 11 verdicts
Sixteen Minutes to Palestine | September 23rd, 2011
First Amendment rights are no longer guaranteed if an individual is tried for being on the wrong side: for not supporting Israel’s policies in the Middle East, its occupation, its abandonment of the most fundamental form of justice, or its perception of public nonviolent dissent as institutionalized death-wishing festivities. So in a very obvious sense, the real verdict is that Israel’s interests stand above the right to express, to speak, to engage, and to openly challenge the injustices legitimized by Oren’s words.
In another relevant and disturbing perspective of the verdict, the court’s decision reflects that “Muslims are permanent foreigners, at least in Orange County,” according to Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. In yet another blow to Muslim freedoms and civil liberties here in the United States, the ten students have been publicly denied their right to free speech. The Muslim Students Association chapter at UC Irvine will continue to face both legal scrutiny and a heavily watchful eye — unnecessarily and undeservedly, of course — from campus authorities and anti-Muslim groups in the area. This entire case has become a breeding ground for the most virulent and bigoted anti-Islam sentiment enthusiastically shielded by the courthouse’s roof (and, ironically, the principle of “free speech”).
Students convicted in Irvine 11 case
NBC LA | September 23rd, 2011
“This is yet another reaffirmation that Islamophobia is intensely and extensively alive and thriving in Orange County,” said Shakeel Syed, of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. “I believe this will be used as precedent now to suppress speech and dissent throughout the country. This is the beginning of the death of democracy.”
Defense attorney Reem Salahi, who represented two defendants, claimed the students were warned before the event that disuprtions wouldn’t be tolerated. That warning, the defense argued, effectively denied the students an outlet for free speech.
‘Irvine 11′ jury finds all 10 students guilty, will not serve jail time
Los Angeles Times | September 23rd, 2011
University administrators disciplined some of the students involved and suspended the campus Muslim Student Union, some of whose members participated in the protest, for an academic quarter.
The university “considered those sanctions sufficient,” UCI spokesman Rex Bossert said. “We nurture a campus climate that promotes robust debate and welcomes different points of view.”
Legal scholars such as Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, agreed with the university’s punishment… He and others were critical of Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas bringing criminal misdemeanor charges against the so-called Irvine 11. Critics called the charges political grandstanding over a nonviolent event which stoked the flames of a controversy that seemed to have died down months ago.
“It’s unnecessary and it’s harmful. It’s unnecessarily divisive,” Chemerinsky said Friday. “Now this keeps it an open wound.”
Irvine 11 guilty verdict motivated by politics, racism.
Liberation | September 23rd, 2011
Standing up for justice is not a crime. But in the U.S. criminal “justice” system it certainly is, especially when you stand up for the Palestinian people.
No matter what the authorities say, the Irvine 11 were prosecuted and convicted for the content of their speech, not the mere act of disruption. The issue was framed as one of simple “free speech,” with the prosecution saying that the Irvine 11 curtailed Oren’s constitutional rights. But it was much more than that—the case was entirely political.
The Eleven were prosecuted and convicted because they are Muslim, because they spoke out against injustice and because they took the side of the Palestinian people. They stood firmly against a war criminal that was on a public relations tour defending the mass murder of over 1,400 Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The Irvine 11 were expressing their views. They did not “shut down” Oren’s presentation as the prosecution claimed.
Support Irvine 11 as they continue to fight for justice
American Muslims for Palestine | September 23rd, 2011
Despited the setback, however, AMP is calling on all its supporters to continue to stand with the Irvine 11 and all those who advocate for Palestine.
“We’re asking people to stand up for civil rights, no matter the verdict today,” said Marya Bangee, spokesperson for the Stand With the Eleven campaign. “It is our duty as American citizens. …It’s clear the students were shut down because of the content of their speech.”
“We are pleased that the judge in this case saw fit to not impose a jail sentence because he recognized the students are productive members of society and were motivated by their political beliefs,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, AMP chairman and professor of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. “We have confidence in the American legal system and that justice ultimately will prevail in this case, even if it is delayed. We call on all of Palestine’s supporters to prepare for a long legal battle and political fight.”
Daily Pilot | September 23rd, 2011
An Orange County Superior Court jury on Friday convicted 10 of the so-called Irvine 11 on two misdemeanor charges to conspire and then disrupt a February 2010 speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine.
Charges against one defendant had been tentatively dismissed, pending completion of 40 hours of community service at the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa.
The remaining 10 were sentenced to three years of informal probation and 56 hours of community service.
Steven Shiffrin, a 1st Amendment expert with Cornell University, said he agrees that prosecution of the 10 students should not have gone this far, but said he is not surprised.
“I think it was prosecutorial grandstanding,” he said. “Maybe it makes the prosecutor’s office more popular, but if so, that’s regrettable.”
He said one of the 1st Amendment’s central purposes is to protect dissent, and heckling is part of that “tradition.”
MuslimMatters | September 23rd, 2011
If these were not Muslims, there would be no case.
I think this is so obvious that it needs no explanation, but nevertheless needs to headline any story on Irvine-11. Why? Because we have had documented cases of nearly identical situations that have occurred with other student groups and individuals doing the same sort of protesting at events, but none ever facing prosecution. In fact, is there any case in our entire American legal history, where individuals are being prosecuted for sloganeering in a public speech? None! If such a precedent existed, you would have bet that would have been front and center for the prosecution.
Let’s refer to two examples to highlight my stated assertion: One in which a Muslim speaker was nearly shutdown AT the SAME university (UCI), and secondly where non-Muslims (Jewish students) protested an Israeli speaker, Netanyahu. So, these two events cover the entire spectrum of possible scenarios.
UC Muslim students get probation, fines
Orange County Register | September 23rd, 2011
A jury Friday found 10 Muslim university students guilty of disrupting a speech by an Israeli diplomat at UC Irvine last year, in a case that focused on free speech.
Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson sentenced each student to three years of probation, which would be cut to a year if each completes 56 hours of community service by Jan. 31. He also ordered them to pay $270 in fines.
Wilson said jail time was not warranted because evidence showed the students were “motivated by their beliefs and did not disrupt for the sake of disrupting.”
One of the students, Asaad Traina, 20, who’s starting work on a master’s in biotech at UC Irvine, said he handled the trial and the spotlight with patience.
“The time that it really hit me was when … the verdict was announced and my mother was in the courtroom and she just burst into tears; that was the first time that I really felt like, I guess, I was sorry that my family had to be put through this,” he said.
Case against Muslim student protesters nears end
Reuters | September 22nd, 2011
A verdict is expected soon in the trial of 10 Muslim students from Southern California charged with unlawfully disrupting a speech by Israel’s ambassador, in a case their supporters say has unfairly criminalized campus protest.
A jury on Thursday began a second full day of deliberations in the case against the students, some of them since graduated from college, who are charged with misdemeanor counts of disturbing a meeting and conspiring to do so.
‘Irvine 11′s’ speech infringed because they’re Muslim
Orange County Register | September 21st, 2011
The mode of expression these young men chose is essential to their freedom to express themselves. And this is without consequence to restrictions attempted by the university. In fact, Judge Wilson ruled on a motion by the defense attorneys that the prosecution could not present the UCI’s written code of conduct because it is an overly broad restriction on free speech and therefore unconstitutional.
Our ability to speak freely, and therefore think freely, is at stake and the chilling effect of this entire episode has already begun to manifest. A few weeks after the Oren incident at UCI, we were told by another Muslim student group that because of what happened at UCI, they decided to protest Oren’s speech at their university in another fashion. They would wait till the Q&A session, then engage Ambassador Oren. But Oren apparently cut short the Q&A session, and the students felt they were left without having raised their voices to this speaker or what he represents.
And perhaps that’s exactly what Oren, the DA’s office, and others want: to ensure that certain political views are never heard in an impactful manner. But it is the conviction that all voices should be heard, ringing as true, loud and clear as one wishes that brought hundreds of supporters of the Irvine 11 to attend closing arguments and that will continue to encourage scores of Americans, regardless of the outcome of this trial, to speak up and speak out, especially when it matters most.
Irvine 11 case goes to trial
Los Angeles Times | September 21st, 2011
Goodman said the remaining supporters of the protest peacefully walked out of the ballroom at 6:25 p.m., leaving Oren plenty of time to finish his speech. In fact, the ambassador did complete it but canceled a planned question-and-answer session.
Lisa Holder, another defense attorney, said the defendants’ shouted comments were impolite and critical of Israel but legally protected by the 1st Amendment.
“Ultimately what was disruptive was the message,” Holder said.
Dan Stormer, another defense attorney, told the jury in his closing statement: “Being rude may be unpleasant, but it’s not unlawful.”
Irvine 11 Trial: Jury Deliberation Set to Begin
Neon Tommy | September 20th, 2011
Kifah Shah, a campaign spokeswoman for Stand with the Eleven, said defense attorneys emphasized both the protester’s message and the manner in which they protested.
“Defense attorney Tarek Shawky said you cannot have conspiracy to engage in an unlawful act if what you’re doing is planning to be lawful,” Shah said. “Conspiracy means you’re intent on committing a crime and [the defense attorneys] are saying the defendants were engaging in a protest, not committing a crime.”
Shah said defense attorney Lisa Holder told the jury that the protesters are being prosecuted for what they said, not what they did.
Defense calls Irvine 11 defenders of Constitution
OC Now | September 20th, 2011
They were likened to Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez for what the defense described as civil – but legal – disobedience.
“[They] are serving our society with their conscious,” said Jacqueline Goodman, one of the six defense attorneys.
She said that the students left plenty of time for Oren to finish his speech after they were escorted out of the ballroom at 6:25 p.m. on Feb. 8, 2010. Oren did complete his address but cut out a planned question-and-answer session.
‘Hope and Prayers’ for Muslim students on trial for heckling Israeli Ambassador
Episcopal News Service | September 20th, 2011
The controversial trial of 10 Muslim students – arrested for heckling the Israeli ambassador during a campus speech last year at the University of California in Irvine – was coming to a close Sept. 19, but their supporters were just getting warmed up.
An overflow multiethnic, interfaith crowd packed an Orange County Superior Courtroom as attorneys on both sides began wrapping up their cases, citing free speech arguments. Prosecutors said the students had effectively censored Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren’s Feb. 8, 2010 speech; defense attorneys said their behavior amounted to normal student activism.
Dozens more in solidarity with the “Irvine 11″ but unable to find seats in the courtroom, filled the hallway outside, their hopes and prayers pinned on an eventual verdict in favor of the students’ right to express public dissent. Representatives of faith and secular organizations prepared for a second day of closing arguments Sept. 20 and said they believe prosecutors have targeted the students because they are Muslim.
‘Irvine 11′ defense attorneys call the students patriots
Los Angeles Times | September 20th, 2011
In closing arguments, the lawyers likened their clients to Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez for what the defense described as a legal form of civil disobedience at UC Irvine last year.
The Muslim students “are serving our society with their conscience,” said Jacqueline Goodman, one of six defense attorneys.
Lisa Holder, another defense lawyer, said the students’ shouted comments at Oren were certainly not polite but were protected by the First Amendment.
The students are on trial, she said, because of what they expressed — criticism of Israel’s position regarding Palestinians — not for interrupting Oren.
“Ultimately what was disruptive was the message,” Holder said, calling for acquittal. ”Ultimately you may be what stands between democracy and creeping fascism,” she told the jury.
UCI Muslim Students: Lawful Protest or Conspiracy?
Orange County Register | September 19th, 2011
“(The case) is a story about the American tradition to express dissent even if those views are unpopular,” said attorney Reem Salahi.
The defense said rules voiced by administrators at the event were made “on the fly” and the high expectations of “civility and respect” voiced by a professor was “merely an admonition to be polite.”
“In America, we don’t prosecute people for being impolite,” Salahi argued, citing several instances for the jury when similar protests at campuses, including UCI, did not lead to arrests even though disruptions occurred.
Defense attorney Dan Mayfield asked jurors to pay close attention to the time elements of the case, saying Oren spoke for nearly 25 minutes and finished his speech, while the students’ combined interruptions took up a little more than a minute and the cheering from their supporters nearly four minutes.
Irvine 11 DA’s closing statements branded ‘political theater’
Los Angeles Times | September 19th, 2011
Leaders of various groups gathered for a news conference outside the Santa Ana Courthouse on Monday afternoon to condemn the actions of the Orange County district attorney’s office in the case of the so-called Irvine 11.
Shakeed Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, called the closing statements of the prosecutor “political theater.”
“We patiently wait for the verdict and for justice to prevail,” he said.
Others present at the news conference included representatives from the L.A. Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Institute of Orange County.
Irvine 11 trial reaches its final stages
Neon Tommy | September 19th, 2011
At a press conference held during recess, a representative for the Jewish Voice for Peace, Estee Chandler, also compared the Irvine 11 protest to a previous one held by a group of “Young Jewish and Proud” activists to disrupt the speech of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in November of 2010.
“None faced criminal charges by a district attorney,” said Chandler, of the Young Jewish and Proud activists, “Only Orange County DA Tony Rackauckas can tell us what set these ten Muslim students apart from the Jewish protesters in New Orleans.”
The defense will continue their closing statements Tuesday morning.
Update about Irvine 11 Trial on Middle East in Focus Radio Show
September 18th, 2011 | KPFK
Aljazeera Arabic News Segment about the Irvine 11
September 17th, 2011 | Aljazeera Arabic
Irvine 11 Trial: “Put a Straitjacket and Muzzle on Them?”
September 16th, 2011 | OC Weekly
Having watched a video of the Irvine 11 incident, Clayman affirmed that the audience response seemed to be a “normal and unavoidable” part of Ambassador Michael Oren’sspeech.
Trial of Muslim UC Students Nears End
September 16th, 2011 | Orange County Register
Final arguments in the trial of 10 University of California students charged with disrupting a speech by an Israeli diplomat at UCI are scheduled for Monday.
Testimony in the case that has free speech ramifications concluded Thursday, with jurors set to return next week to hear the summations before beginning their deliberations.
Defense Rests on Irvine 11 Trial
September 16th, 2011 | Los Angeles Times
The defense’s last witnesses included Kareem Elsayed, a UCI graduate who attended his first political speech in 2001 as a freshman.
The Muslim Student Union had invited Amir Abdel Malik, a controversial Muslim speaker, to speak on campus. Elsayed said about 15 to 20 students protested and, for about 15 minutes, prevented Malik from delivering his message…
But Wagner challenged Elsayed to say whether he believed that those who prevented Malik should have been reprimanded for their actions.
“I obviously didn’t like that they interrupted the speaker,” Elsayed said, “But yeah, it’s acceptable.”
Ground rules went too far, free speech expert says at Irvine 11 trial
September 14th, 2011 | Los Angeles Times
A UC Irvine professor overstepped his boundaries when he told students that no disruptions were allowed during the Israeli ambassador’s visit on campus last year, according to testimony given Wednesday in the so-called Irvine 11 trial in Santa Ana.
UC Irvine professor Rei Terada, an expert on the history and guidelines of free speech, told the Superior Court jury that fellow professor Mark Petracca, the event’s emcee, had no authority to set stringent ground rules.
Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner challenged Terada, pointing out that what Petracca said echoed statements from UCI Chancellor Michael Drake. Terada, however, said neither Drake nor Petracca had the authority to set that standard. “They were saying what they wanted to happen,” she testified.
Professor: Muslim UC students not out of line
September 14th, 2011 | OC Register
A UCI professor who has organized dozens of panels and speakers over the years testified Wednesday the students who disrupted the speech of an Israeli diplomat at her campus last year did what is customary at similar college protests.
Rei Terada, who also served as the chair of the university’s comparative literature department, said she has taught courses in customs and usages relating to campus protests and found the “rules of engagement” outlined at the 2010 event by another professor to be too restrictive.
She said it is rare to restrict the tone of the event as Mark Petracca, the UCI political science professor who moderated the speech, did by calling for politeness before the Feb. 8, 2010, speech by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.
But Petracca went further, she said, by adding the expectation of decorum needed to exceed that at the British parliament or the U.S. Congress, rules that are not consistent with a planned speech by a controversial speaker.
“I’ve never heard that to be stated or expected at a university lecture,” Terada said…
“These days it is common for students to protest … not only what the speaker stands for,” Terada testified, “but the fact that the university sponsored the speaker.”
‘Irvine 11’ students rightly exercised their free speech
September 14th, 2011 | Daily Trojan
“The wrongful arrest of the 11 students could potentially cause severe repercussions among college students who might see this as reason to avoid protest if there’s a chance of arrest…
It’s true that these students violated certain social norms. They broke etiquette by interrupting Oren, whose turn it was to talk
But as American citizens the 11 students were well within their rights to perform such an act of peaceful protest, and therefore don’t deserve to be punished for voicing their opinions…
Most importantly, one can only hope that the 11 UCI students will be acquitted to show we still have the inalienable right to speak out as college students.”
Irvine 11 update: Attorneys use key evidence, as reported by EI, in courtroom
September 14th, 2011 | Electronic Intifada
As the Electronic Intifada exclusively reported over the weekend, the prosecution is arguing that Oren could not finish his speech because of the protest, and therefore the students are guilty of misdemeanor charges of disruption of a meeting and conspiracy to disrupt a meeting. However, a photograph has surfaced showing Oren with LA Laker Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center, where Oren had VIP tickets courtesy of the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles. Though he was able to finish his planned speech, even with the interruptions by the students, Oren may have opted out of doing a question and answer session simply because he had to race back up to Los Angeles from Orange County during rush hour in time for the game to begin. As Max Blumenthal reported for us, “Oren probably viewed a question and answer session with Israel’s most devoted Los Angeles-area supporters as a dangerous diversion from the good times that awaited him at courtside.”
Irvine 11 attorney: Ambassador cut short talk to attend Lakers game
September 13th, 2011 | Los Angeles Times
“Ultimately, prosecutors said, Oren was forced to cancel a question-and-answer session because of the disruption.
But defense attorney Lisa Holder said that Oren could have stayed for a question-and-answer session after the protesters were led away but instead opted to go to Staples Center.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Paul Wilson denied Holder’s request to show jurors a photo of Oren posing with Kobe Bryant at the game.”
Irvine 11 Trial: Defense Compares Protest to Comedy Club Heckling–’Rude, Not Illegal’
September 13th, 2011 | OC Weekly
The defense also brought up Sanah Yassin, who protested a speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the University of Chicago in 2009. It was discovered through the emails that Irvine 11 modeled its demonstration after this incident, where about 30 student activists stood up, one by one, in a crowded auditorium, and shouted statements opposing Olmert’s views and actions. Attorneys said no protestor was arrested.
“Similar protests had happened throughout history, and I was trying to exercise my right to free speech,” Yassin explained.
Goodman also wanted jurors to understand the “context of heckling” and compared the Irvine 11 to hecklers at a comedy club. It’s “rude, not illegal,” she said.
Holder added, “A lack of courtesy is not a crime.”
UC Muslim students’ defense: No intent to break law
September 13th, 2011 | Orange County Register
“There was a disruption,” acknowledged Jacqueline Goodman, one of the attorneys representing the students charged with misdemeanor disturbing a public meeting and conspiracy. “But it was not substantial in the context of a political speech.”
Goodman, in her opening statements to the jury, said, “There is no evidence these students planned to go outside of a lawful protest.”
She contended that the students showed a “fidelity to the law” when they disrupted the speech.
Irvine 11 defense: Oren went to Lakers game afterward
September 13th, 2011 | Daily Pilot
The Israeli ambassador to the United States did not take questions after completing his speech at UC Irvine last year so that he could attend a Lakers game, according to opening statements made by a defense attorney in the Irvine 11 case.
Defense attorney Lisa Holder said Oren could have stayed after the protesters were led out of his speech, but he instead went to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles…
Defense attorney Jacqueline Goodman said that the student protesters did not break the law but instead exercised free speech in the manner of Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr., the very figures they learned about in their classrooms.
Irvine 11 Trial: Students Planned a ‘Chicago-Style Disruption,’ Emails Reveal
September 12th, 2011 | OC Weekly
“Trying to show jurors that the Muslim students on trial did not act spontaneously in their disruption of the speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, prosecutors presented a series of emails that were sent by the defendants in the days leading up to the protest on Feb. 8, 2010.
The emails, obtained from Google by search warrant and shown today in court, discussed plans for adisruption similar to a 2009 incident at the University of Chicago, where about 30 demonstrators stood up in the crowd, one by one, to protest a lecture being given by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert…
After today’s court proceedings, Kifah Shah, spokesperson for the Stand with the 11 campaign, said she believes the emails are actually “evidence that [the defendants] were staying within the boundaries of the law.” She believes the OCDA has “set a very dangerous precedent of stifling critical discourse across college campuses.”
Irvine 11 witness says she was ‘frightened’
September 12th, 2011 | Daily Pilot
Rhoda Harris, who sat next to a student who later protested the Israeli ambassador’s speech, testified Monday that she was upset by the protestors’ repeated disruptions…
When asked if she felt threatened by the students’ behavior, she said, “Not at first, but when they removed the ambassador, that frightened me.”
The ambassador left the stage after the fourth disruption, but returned to complete his speech.
A defense attorney asked UCI Police Sgt. Mark Arnold whether the college had made plans prior to the speech to arrest students who caused the disruption.
He said the university does not have a policy to arrest students, but also said handcuffs were already in the room where the students were detained.
The students cooperated with police officers and were taken without incident, he said.
How Kobe Bryant blows a hole in the Irvine 11 prosecution’s case
September 11th, 2011 | Electronic Intifada
“What their intention was, make no mistake, was to shut him [Oren] down,” Deputy District Attorney Dan Wagner told the jurors. As evidence that Oren’s speech was “shut down,” Wagner claimed that Oren was unable to perform a question and answer session he planned to deliver for audience.
But new evidence has surfaced that raises serious doubts about whether Oren even intended to deliver a question and answer session, and suggests he may have rushed out of the University of California-Irvine auditorium for reasons entirely unrelated to the student protest. In light of the evidence, there is good reason to believe that Oren’s speech was not “shut down” by anyone but himself.
The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles had arranged VIP tickets for Oren to a Lakers-Spurs game that evening at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. The ambassador had to hurry off in time for tip-off, denying his audience at Irvine the chance to engage with him. A photo shows Oren and Israel’s southwestern consul general Jacob Dayan posing with Lakers star Kobe Bryant in the Lakers team area after the game, which took place on 8 February 2010. Oren, who can be seen beaming with delight, is hardly the portrait of a traumatized crime victim.
According to an official listing of the Oren event, “US Israel Relations from a Political and Personal Perspective,” Oren was scheduled to speak from 5:30 to 7pm — no question and answer session was scheduled (see “US Israel Relations from a Political and Personal Perspective,” UC Irvine School of Social Sciences website).
The Lakers-Spurs game began at 7:30pm PST (10:30pm EST). If Oren had any hope of reaching Staples Center in time for tip-off, or close to it, he would have had to have left early, or at least remained with his audience for far less than the hour and a half period he was scheduled to speak for.
Under the circumstances, Oren probably viewed a question and answer session with Israel’s most devoted Los Angeles-area supporters as a dangerous diversion from the good times that awaited him at courtside. The ambassador was not “shut down.” He simply had better things to do.
Flashpoints Radio interview on the Irvine 11 trial
September 9th, 2011 | Electronic Intifada
Nora Barrows-Fiedman from Electronic Intifada is interviewed about the Irvine 11 trial on Flashpoints Radio.
“Dennis and I discussed the opening day of the trial, the “selective and discriminatory” investigation by the Orange County District Attorney’s office to assemble their case against the group of Muslim students from UC Irvine and UC Riverside, and the nature of the trial itself which could set a troubling precedent for free speech and activism cases in the US.”
The Irvine 11
September 9th, 2011 | Veterans Today
Orange County is a hotbed of right-wing extremism, reflected in its district attorney, acting more like an Israeli enforcer than defender of constitutional rights…
It’s one thing calling them too outspoken or rude. It’s quite another falsely accusing them of lawbreaking by exercising their free speech right.
In fact, if Jewish students confronted a visiting Muslim official, it would have gone unnoticed, no matter how many did it or what they said.
Recap of first day of Irvine 11 trial: “no unlawful act was committed”
September 8th, 2011 | Electronic Intifada
Today’s opening statements in the Irvine 11 trial included explicit deconstruction by the defense team of the Orange County District Attorney’s argument that the Muslim students who protested an Israeli official’s speech last year did so in violation of a California penal code for conspiracy.
“You cannot have a conspiracy to commit an unlawful act if there is not an unlawful act that has been committed,” stated a defense attorney in the courtroom today.”
Irvine 11′s Trial Begins with Both Sides Citing 1st Amendment
September 8th, 2011 | Los Angeles Times
“The first of the six defense attorneys, Daniel Mayfield, addressed jurors with a word written in green: “time.”
He told jurors about the time Oren took to visit the university and the time the defendants had to plan their protest within the limits of the law. He told jurors the speech was 30 minutes late, independent of the student protest, and that the protest lasted a minute…
Moutaz Herzallah, whose son Taher is among the defendants, is originally from Gaza and said he immigrated to the United States “to have peace, dignity and honor.” But Rackauckas, he said, “threw the Constitution in the trash” when he pressed charges against the students.
The jury pool, which was winnowed from 300 over six days, had to complete an eight-page questionnaire that included, among other questions, whether they had studied at UC Irvine or had strong feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
US Students Tried for Anti-Israel Protest
September 8th, 2011 | Press TV
“A foreign ambassador is coming to our home and talking to us about these issues and we can’t have a voice at the table nor can even voice it out in a protest,” said Kifah Shah of the ‘Stand with the Eleven’ group, in a Press TV interview…
A group of peace organizations believe the prosecutors pursued criminal charges due to political consideration in favor of the Israeli regime, the prime US foreign ally. The group says the case is a prime example of selective prosecution and that the students are being punished because the Israeli ambassador was involved.
“Because they were protesting the activities of his country and also because the young men were all Muslim, and because perhaps those behind the prosecution thought that they could get away with it because of the rampant Islamophobia in this country,” said Ameena Qazi from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Los Angeles. CAIR says this case has dealt a significant blow to Muslim-American students on college campuses across the country. The Muslim organization says the prosecution would prevent Muslim students to feel that they are equally accepted in society and allowed to participate in public events.”
Trial for the “Irvine 11″ Begins
September 8th, 2011 | Golden State Liberty
“We never appreciate being reminded that our government still considers First Amendment rights negotiable. For example, you’d hate to think that people engaging in peaceful, verbal protest could face criminal prosecution for their actions in the United States of America. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening in Orange County today, as the trial of the so-called “Irvine 11” begins…
So why were they even charged over what sounds like a perfectly peaceful and legal (if rude) protest? Many in the community accuse County DA Tony Rackauckas of singling the students out because of their religion. The County, for its part, is pointing to the university’s “civility and courtesy” directive as the reason for the charges, which seems ludicrous to us: the school had the right to order them out of the lecture hall, but is violating rules of order really a crime? According to Deputy DA Dan Wagner, “They didn’t want to have an exchange of ideas to see who was telling the truth and who was not. What their intention was, make no mi