RAMALLAH, September 28 (JMCC) - Ten Muslim college students were convicted in a US court of interrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador on the University of California Irvine campus, reports
Jon Wiener at The Nation
The twelve-person jury deliberated for two days before agreeing with the prosecutor that coordinated shouts of protest against Israeli policy had violated a law against disrupting public meetings. The students and their supporters argued that they had exercised their freedom of speech, that Ambassador Michael Oren’s talk had been delayed only briefly and that the students were prosecuted because they were Muslims.
The judge sentenced the students to fifty-six hours of community service and up to three years of probation. The students were found guilty of two misdemeanors, including one conspiracy charge for planning their protest.
Oren appeared on campus (where I teach history) in February 2010. As Oren began his speech, a student stood up and shouted “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” Police removed him from the room, and then another rose and shouted at Oren, “You, sir, are an accomplice to genocide!” He was removed, and nine more followed. A total of eleven were arrested. (One pled guilty to reduced charges, so only ten went to trial.) The longest interruption, defense attorneys told the jury, lasted only eight seconds, and the total amount of time taken up by the eleven statements—combined—was roughly one minute.
Video of the event shows supporters of the ambassador in the audience also shouting, further delaying the proceedings, but they were not removed, arrested or put on trial. The ambassador went on to deliver his speech after a delay of about twenty minutes.