Last year’s controversy at the University of California, Irvine — where members of the Muslim Student Union attempted to shut down a speech by Ambassador Michael Oren — looks like it’s finally headed toward some sort of resolution. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that authorities are charging the students who heckled and disrupted Oren with “conspiring to disrupt a meeting.”
The move comes after about 50 protesters rallied in front of the Orange County district attorney’s office Tuesday. Though some have criticized the students’ method of protest, many said that university punishment was sufficient enough for the “Irvine 11,” as the students came to be known.
In a statement, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said the case was filed because of an “organized attempted to squelch the speaker.” He also said the students “meant to stop this speech and stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting.”
UC Irvine already punished the Muslim Student Association for violating university policy, but the district attorney believes that legal action is also necessary. Evidence has emerged indicating that the MSA had established a premeditated plan to disrupt the speech, and members were allegedly instructed to deny the coordination if questioned.
Similar free-speech violations happen regularly at universities across the country, and they are rarely, if ever, prosecuted. Left-wing student groups often attempt to shout down speakers they disagree with, and they do so knowing that they probably won’t have to deal with any consequences.
But the Orange County district attorney has made it clear that these acts won’t be tolerated any longer.
“We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy,” said Rackauckas in a statement. “We cannot tolerate a pre-planned violation of the law, even if the crime takes place on a school campus and even if the defendants are college students. In our democratic society, we cannot tolerate a deliberate, organized, repetitive and collective effort to significantly disrupt a speaker who hundreds assembled to hear.”