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The Irvine 11

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The Irvine 11 - by Stephen Lendman

Muslim students being prosecuted for exercising their First Amendment rights.

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On February 9, New York Times writer Jennifer Medina headlined, "Charges Against Muslim Students Prompt Debate Over Free Speech," saying:

On February 8, 11 Muslim students interrupted Israeli ambassador Michael Oren's University of California-Irvine speech, criticizing him and Israeli injustice. In fact, they exercised their fundamental First Amendment right doing so.

Nonetheless, Orange County "District Attorney Tony Rackauckas....filed misdemeanor criminal charges against (them), accusing them of disturbing a public meeting and engaging in a conspiracy to do so."

Afterwards, the Southern California ACLU sharply criticized him. In addition, about 100 faculty members urged him to drop the charges. He refused.

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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.

During Oren's speech, students rose one at a time to interrupt, finally getting Oren to "huddle with his aides to decide whether to continue. He did, but by the time" he ended, all 11 students were arrested.

They're called the "Irvine 11," even though three were University of California-Riverside students.

In recent years, southern California Jews called SC-Irvine a hub of anti-Israeli activism. The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) accused university officials of not confronting the issue.

Others call targeting Muslims when they speak out courageously the real problem, especially about Israeli lawlessness and injustice. 

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 Muslin official, it would have gone unnoticed, no matter how many did it or what they said.

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In 2009, ZOA also accused UC-Irvine's Muslim Student Union (MSU) of sponsoring an event to raise money for Hamas, asking the FBI to investigate. No charges were filed.

However, university officials accused MSU of coordinating with students to interrupt Oren's speech. As a result, in mid-June, they suspended the organization for a year, placing it on disciplinary probation.

At the time, attorney Reem Salahi, representing MSU, said the action would have a "massive chilling effect," adding:

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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