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Eleven Students Arrested for Disrupting Speech at UC Irvine

Date: 02/17/2010 11:20 am

Eleven students were arrested at the University of California-Irvine for interrupting an address about Middle Eastern affairs by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

Oren left the stage for twenty minutes after four interruptions, and six more times after returning to the stage.

Students shouted statements such as, “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” After the event, both the UCI Muslim Student Union and the Muslim Public Affairs Council defended the arrested students' actions, but it is unclear whether the students were affiliated with either group.

The University’s Director of Political Science, Professor Mark Petracca, opened the event.
 
“We expect and we relish spirited discussion…But we also have the highest expectation for civility and respect,” he said.
 
Each time a student stood up to yell in protest, they were allowed to finish their statement prior to being escorted from the building amid cheering and applause from neighboring audience members.
 
Professor Petracca returned to the podium several times after the outbursts, and became visibly more upset as they continued.
 
“This is Irvine, California; you have a point of view; we would all appreciate it if you would ask good questions," he said. "And as the person who’s going to call on people, I guarantee that if you raise your hand I will allow you to ask a question when the ambassador has finished speaking.”
 
He, too, received applause.
 
After another outburst, Petracca returned to the microphone and did not hold back. “This is beyond embarrassing,” he said, “We have an opportunity to hear from a policymaker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room…Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.”
 
Oren finished his speech, and protesters gathered outside the building afterwards to chant, “Michael Oren, you will see, Palestine will be free.”
 
The eleven students who were arrested for interrupting the speech may face misdemeanor charges along with university disciplinary hearings, which could bring suspensions or expulsions.

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