Prosecuting the Irvine 11

Friday, September 30, 2011


In February of last year, a group of Muslim students on the University of California Irvine campus disrupted a speech by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the US. The university punished the students, but the "Irvine 11" also faced criminal charges, and last Friday 10 of them were convicted of conspiracy and disturbance of a meeting.  Bob spoke with Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who explained why his office decided to prosecute, and with the Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, Erwin Chemerinsky, who says the student outburst was not protected by the First Amendment, but prosecuting them went too far.

Comments [10]

jccalhoun from indiana

I found it sad and shocking that the Orange County District Attorney apparently does not know the legal definition of censorship. It is one thing for lay people like most of us to call what happened "censorship" but it is quite another for a lawyer to do so.

Regarding the case in question, if every time a group disrupted a campus speaker then the courts would be even more overwhelmed than they already are.

Oct. 07 2011 04:18 PM
listener 2

Tony stated he would do the same for any group. Where was he a few years ago when the tea party organized shout downs at congressional town hall meetings?

Oct. 05 2011 05:38 PM
Wendy from Tucson, AZ

This story is just disturbing. I really wonder if Dr. King could have been successful with organizing protest if our struggle for freedom would have been set in todays communication enviroment? These groups are going to need to go underground a mosque or even a church would be out of the question. Those bus strikes and sit ins would have landed many more people in jail than it did back then! Our cival rights are being chipped away by transparency. It's sad.

Oct. 02 2011 08:23 PM
Joseph Maizlish from Los Angeles

Oct. 2, 2011
On The Media (Oct. 2) mistakenly accepted Orange County District Attorney Rauckakus’ claim that the “Irvine 11” action was intended to “shut down” the campus address by Israeli Ambassador Oren.
Videos show that the students on at a time and at considerable intervals shouted challenging questions or what they considered facts in a way that did not prevent the Ambassador from responding or continuing to talk and did not reflect an intention to prevent. Whether this was rude, violated regulations, or was politically wise are relevant issues. Whether shutting down a talk ought to be prosecuted criminally was not.
The media issue is how the irrelevant claim that this was “shutting down” was so readily and mistakenly accepted.
Joseph Maizlish
Los Angeles

Oct. 02 2011 07:38 PM
Judy shanks

I found the juxtaposition of the Irvine story with the Google story very disturbing, especially because Bob clearly felt the Muslim students had been wronged. Then he used the word "Jew" as the example of a Google search that brings up virulently anti-Semitic sites. Why was Jew used out of all the other possible searches, giving Bob the chance to let listeners know that anti-Semites, not Jews themselves, get top billing at Google? It struck a very sour note for me, as did Bob's clearly biased reporting of this story.

Oct. 02 2011 07:00 PM
Michael Shacham from New Jersey

I agree with the above comments. It seems like Bob was doing his best to support the Muslim students. Had they listened to Mr. Oren they may have learned that there are 2 sides to a conflict and that talking and listening to the other side and conversing with him is the way to solve conflicts not trying to shut down his freedom of speech. Obviously that is not what they are interested in and they got what they deserved. Bob was overly worried about the freedom of speech of the Muslims but not of the Israeli ambassador.

Oct. 02 2011 10:33 AM

It is interesting how the DA is supposed to be concerned about the perceptions of holding Muslim students to the law like anyone else.
Why weren't the Muslim students worried about perceptions when boorishly shouting down a Jewish speaker and disrupting the event?

Could it be that left-wing concerns about "perceptions" and freedom of speech are solely based on furthering their political agenda and the students knew this when they planned their stunt? They believed that their obnoxious behavior would not be challenged by the campus or society but anyone who confronted them on their obnoxious behavior would be challenged and demonized. It is encouraging that this time they thought wrong.

Perhaps now instead of throwing sanctimonious tantrums they will construct a convincing question that will prove the Israeli ambassador wrong.
Perhaps it was their total inability to do the latter is why they chose the former.

Oct. 01 2011 07:16 PM
Johnny from New York

I completely agree with the two prior comments, and I completely support the prosecution in this case. These kids should face the consequences for their crass, abhorrent and, frankly, anti-citizen actions.

You can't leave discipline up to the universities. They don't do anything -- they haven't in the past, and they won't in the future. The only reason these kids were suspended by Irvine was because this case got national attention, and because the county immediately looked like it wanted to act on this issue. If no attention had come of it, they'd have been told not to do it again.

I'd be interested to know what kind of sentence these folks will get. Likely just some kind of fine, right?

Oct. 01 2011 05:56 PM
Joan Lowenstein from Ann Arbor

In Bob's interviews with the prosecutor and Dean Chemerinsky, he raised the question of government action and whether the private acts of the students could be censorship. But the real 1st Amendment issue here is not that there was government censorship but that government has the responsibility to prevent the "heckler's veto" and protect speech. That's what happened in this case.

Oct. 01 2011 10:49 AM

The DA was absolutely correct. A law should either be enforced or repealed and not selectively prosecuted. What these students did was thuggish, intimidating and premeditated and sadly excused, dismissed or condoned by many foolish adults who should know better which means it will happen again and fear will chill debate and discussion on campus.
If such behavior is ennobled rather than mocked and ridiculed by their peers and academia than the law should provide punishment or else it will be repeated.

This prosecution clearly was good for the community. If groups are permitted to shut down a speaker by barking slogans in an organized disruption they will continue to do it and opposing groups will follow suit and the conflict will escalate from there into a lawless donnybrook.
If the arrogant and obnoxious want to conspire to shout down a speaker's freedom of speech rights using coordinated harassment tactics and create a hostile environment, they should be prepared to be hauled into court and answer for it.

Of course it would have been better if the disrupters were not dignified by their "progressive" peers and professors and just called infantile losers and social shame was the extent of the punishment.

Sep. 30 2011 11:59 PM

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