February 9, 2011
Following the shameful behaviour of the SPSC towards Ismail Khaldi I thought this was worth mentioning. Last February, you may recall, Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, was subjected to similar abuse when he was invited to give a talk at the University of California in Irvine.
Well I've just learned via Israel Matzav that California's district attorney has charged eleven of the protesters with a charge of "conspiracy to disrupt a lawful assembly". Here is an exert from the LA Times article:
The Orange County district attorney’s office on Friday charged 11 defendants with conspiring to disrupt a meeting and a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States at UC Irvine last year.
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.”
“We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy,” he said. “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.”
The students are accused of meeting with other members of the Muslim Student Union to discuss options to respond to the speech as far out as six days before the event.
According to prosecutors, students circulated e-mails and held multiple meetings to plan the disruption of the speech. One of the students is accused of sending an e-mail to the MSU-UCI message board announcing that “we will be staging a University of Chicago Style disruption of the Ambassador’s speech.”
Approximately 500 to 700 people had assembled for the meeting, authorities say.
Eight of the defendants are students at UC Irvine and the other three were students at UC Riverside. Each is charged with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one misdemeanor count of the disturbance of the meeting. If convicted, they could be fined and/or sentenced to probation with community service or six months in jail.
Do similar laws apply in the UK, and if so how can we use them to prevent this sort of thing happening again?