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Irvine 11 Guilty Verdict
September 23, 2011 2:38 PM   Subscribe

In February of 2011, eleven students that attended UC Irvine and UC Riverside went to a fundraising speech featuring Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, at the UC Irvine campus. During Oren's speech, students would stand up, shout an objection to Oren's speech, and then would allow themselves to be escorted by security, essentially causing a "heckler's veto." They were arrested, charged, and today found guilty of disrupting Oren's speech.

Some of the students were part of the campus's Muslim Students Union, which was suspended for a year due to the protest. Prior to trial, several members of the prosecuting team was discharged due to using privileged documents in preparing the case. During trial, both the D.A. and the defense cited First Amendment rights as the fundamental principle supporting each side. Reactions have been mixed. (Previously, Muslims in Orange County.)

This is not the first time that the free speech rights of protesters has been put on trial.
posted by jabberjaw (59 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know, if they'd apply that logic uniformly, it'd wreak havoc with corporate astroturfing.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:44 PM on September 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


So Group A's right to free speech does not over-ride Group B's right to free speech? Good.
posted by IanMorr at 2:45 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your rights end where the other guy's begin.
posted by resurrexit at 2:47 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


This should not be a criminal offense. You want to remove the disruptive people from your event? Fine. OK. Do that. But then you want to file charges against them? Thppptttt!
posted by Brocktoon at 2:48 PM on September 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is not an example of the heckler's veto. Oren was able to finish his speech, rather than being arrested by police fearing a riot. The basic legal concept here is that while government cannot regulate the content of protesting expressions, it does have some right to restrict the time, place, and manner of those expressions, precisely so that all parties can express themselves without being drowned out by hecklers or more violently-expressed disagreement. The case you want to look at is Feiner v. New York... not because it was rightly decided, but because of Black's dissent outlining the relevant issues in what has become a standard analysis.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:48 PM on September 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


(Also, why are they referred to as "Muslim" and not by their nationality or simply as students? Oren's not referred to as a "Jew." Were they shouting God is great or something specifically religious beyond their all just being members of a Muslim student group?)
posted by resurrexit at 2:49 PM on September 23, 2011 [24 favorites]


Right, anotherpanacea, "heckler's veto" is a term of art and this ain't it.
posted by resurrexit at 2:51 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Putting these kids in jail for up to a year would be really stupid.
posted by entropone at 2:52 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


to the freedom cages for the lot of ya! & next stop will be the freedom mines!
posted by Shit Parade at 3:00 PM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


IanMoor: though group B's *does* override group A's…
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:04 PM on September 23, 2011


Just FYI, it was February 2010, not 2011.
posted by crabintheocean at 3:06 PM on September 23, 2011


Just because the protesters were saying something when they were being disruptive doesn't make it protected by the first amendment. They are of course free to say whatever they want in a separate meeting. By the same principle, wearing a t-shirt would not be disruptive, but unfurling a banner, thereby blocking other people's view, would be disruptive. That said, I think the sentencing should be light. I think even the three years informal probation is too much.
posted by demiurge at 3:09 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Putting these kids in jail for up to a year would be really stupid.
posted by entropone at 2:52 PM on September 23 [1 favorite +] [!]


From the perspective of broader society, these aren't "kids". They're Muslims. "Kids" are Tommy and Mary down at State U. who love Jesus and football games and so forth. They get in a little trouble sometimes, sure, but hey, they're just kids.

In America, somebody named Mohammad cannot, by definition, be "just a kid". They are a terrorist in waiting. A determined anti-Western radical. Throw the book at that bastard. We know just what they're up to, don't we?
posted by Avenger at 3:10 PM on September 23, 2011 [23 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see the reaction from people about this vs. the whole "town hall" mess from the HCR debates.
posted by lattiboy at 3:10 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It'll be interesting to see the reaction from people about this vs. the whole "town hall" mess from the HCR debates.

Easily predictable. The HCR town hall tea baggers were exercising their 1st (and sometimes 2nd) amendment rights. These people are clearly agitators whose only aim is to disrupt our shiny civilization.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:13 PM on September 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm not a legal expert, but I can't see these convictions holding up on appeal.

The prosecution's claim to be protecting free speech by filing criminal charges against people for exercising free speech is truly absurd, even for Orange County.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:14 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


This really has nothing to do with the content of what the students said -- which would be a free speech violation. Nor in fact were they convicted of disrupting Oren's speech. Rather:

The six-man, six-woman jury found the students guilty on one count each of misdemeanor disturbing a public meeting and conspiracy.

And that's what they did. This isn't a case about expressive speech, it's a case about planned disruption of another's expressive speech. So I'm fine with the conviction. Though I too wonder what the relevance is of the student's religious affiliation.
posted by bearwife at 3:15 PM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see the reaction from people about this vs. the whole "town hall" mess from the HCR debates.
posted by lattiboy at 3:10 PM on September 23 [+] [!]


I am one of the liberals who was appalled by the Tea Party behavior during those debates, but I don't think that any of those Tea Baggers should do jail time for disrupting speeches. I draw the line at showing up with guns (it seems clearly intimidating to me) but still not jailworthy. There's no harm in escorting anyone with a firearm from the premises (unless that person has plans to do harm, that is).

I recognize that I have a right to free speech but I don't believe that includes a constitutional right to be free from hecklers or to be free from being shouted down. Calling the police to arrest people who disagree with you worries me much more than being yelled at by annoying people.
posted by Avenger at 3:16 PM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


people are escorted all the time from congress because of "disruptive" behavior or waving signs or unfurling banners.

I really do not understand this apologetic attitude which accepts protesting as like as it is done in the woods, alone, with a permit. Sorry life can be inconvenient, bunch of softies.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:17 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


People should just shut up about this issue because I don't like what they stand for.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:20 PM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


What if you had a situation where every speech you gave, people opposed to you would conspire to attend the event and shout at you every minute (a different person each time). Your speech would be disrupted: people would not be able to hear what you are saying. That is the purpose of this law, so that people can express their views in public meetings free from concerted efforts to block that expression. Without this law, corporations or wealthy individuals could pay people to consistently disrupt all kinds of public meetings about science or policy they don't like.
posted by demiurge at 3:38 PM on September 23, 2011 [17 favorites]


Shouting someone down is not practicing free speech, it is suppressing it.
posted by LarryC at 3:43 PM on September 23, 2011 [16 favorites]


It isn't liberal to try to shut up those with whom you disagree.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:43 PM on September 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


The sentencing just came down: no jail time, 3 years probation, and 56 hours of community service which, if completed in a year, will the probation will be terminated.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:47 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't help but to be inspired by these kids. For every ex-hippie op-ed about how college students don't protest anymore, I'd like to show the author this video. You're looking at the wrong color kids.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:54 PM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


meanwhile others aren't even allowed to be invited to exercise free-speech without those providing the venue being threatened with criminal action.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:58 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


How the fuck is misdemeanor disruption of a meeting a crime? Are you fucking kidding me?

I completely understand escorting the people out, or charging them with disturbing the peace (if it were an event in public) but this is a joke of a law.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:59 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


How the fuck is misdemeanor disruption of a meeting a crime?

IANAL, but a misdemeanor is by definition a crime, isn't it?
posted by Gelatin at 4:00 PM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pardon my poor choice of grammar.

How the fuck is misdemeanor disruption of a meeting a crime?
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:01 PM on September 23, 2011


Sounds like a relic of a pro-union law.
posted by chemoboy at 4:06 PM on September 23, 2011


Laws against disturbing the peace have been on the books in California since 1872. It's CA penal code section 415, if you want to look into it.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:22 PM on September 23, 2011


Seems to me that the difference between the town hall meetings on health reform and this speech is that the town hall meetings were held by elected politicians, whose job it is to get yelled at by constituents. It makes sense to me that the law protects peaceful assemblies from those who would try to disrupt them. That disruption doesn't need to be violent for it to be a violation of the rights of those assembling to (a) assemble and (b) practice free speech on their own. It's abundantly clear that people who do this sort of shouting down have no interest in a free exchange of ideas; they're interested in other side not getting heard.
posted by Dasein at 4:24 PM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


And while on my way to lunch on campus one day at this very institution, I found a pamphlet with a picture of Mohamed with a bomb for a turbin and the claim that he was a pedophile written inside. This was presumably produced by another local student group.
posted by dibblda at 4:28 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


What if you had a situation where every speech you gave, people opposed to you would conspire to attend the event and shout at you every minute (a different person each time). Your speech would be disrupted: people would not be able to hear what you are saying.

I'm pretty sure that this is why monied interests and totalitarians get such a kick out of television. In broadcast, no one can hear you scream.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:35 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not too keen on criminal charges, but a heckler's veto is grounds for being expelled from college. If you can't answer speech with speech, you have no place in the academy.
posted by ocschwar at 4:38 PM on September 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


I found a pamphlet with a picture of Mohamed with a bomb for a turbin and the claim that he was a pedophile written inside.

Sounds like a commentary on the egregiously censored and violently opposed Mohammed cartoons, along with a statement that, according to traditional sources, would be accurate.
posted by Dasein at 4:39 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's be honest here, if this was a representative of any other country, this would never have gone to trial.
posted by cell divide at 4:57 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess they should just count themselves lucky they're not black as well
posted by the mad poster! at 5:00 PM on September 23, 2011


It is rude to speak while another is speaking.
posted by notreally at 5:38 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Orange County is a strange place. I've worked there, I've even known people who lived there who seemed OK... but I just don't know about Orange County.

I agree that shouting down someone trying to speak to an audience who is there to hear him is uncivil. It is unquestionably disruptive to a public meeting, and if that is a crime, then what these students did was a crime.

But there are hate speech laws on the books, too. And if what seem to me to be (IANAL) hate speech violators are not prosecuted (previously on Metafilter) in Orange County -- and meeting disruptors are -- it starts to look like selective prosecution. On religious grounds.

What the fuck is happening behind the orange curtain?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 5:47 PM on September 23, 2011


It seems to me that this was exactly what the jury ruled it to be - a group of people who conspired to systematically disrupt a public meeting. I fail to see how race, politics, or international relations play a role in it.
posted by Vhanudux at 5:58 PM on September 23, 2011


Seconding no idea how those were criminal offenses. Remove from venue, fine. Criminal charges, wtf?
posted by norabarnacl3 at 6:04 PM on September 23, 2011


I don't think this has anything to do with OC--UCIrvine isn't the same as the surrounding community. I was at the originalevent, and the group was organized, attended with the sole purpose of distrupting the speaker and garnering media attention. I'm sure they're satisfied.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:09 PM on September 23, 2011


Sounds like a commentary on the egregiously censored and violently opposed Mohammed cartoons, along with a statement that, according to traditional sources, would be accurate.

Betrothing a girl at six or seven for political purposes? Not that shocking to me, sorry. It was the late sixth or early seventh century. Having her in his household from the age of 9 or 10? Sounds a bit young for the time period, but I don't know much about that time period. It's not my area of expertise, but I feel pretty comfortable saying a comparable example exists in Europe free from 'icky' and 'dangerous' Islam. The trick in finding an example from the same time period is that we probably know more about Mohammed than we do a lot of people in that period. (I told myself I wasn't going to look, but Judith of Flanders was married at about 12 in the ninth century. Wiki doesn't have much information on the women of that time period, never mind earlier.)

Ignoring the content of the cartoon, hearing an interview with the editor of Jyllandsposten on the Guardian's Islamophobia podcast convinced me that the cartoons were published for all the wrong reasons. The guy has convinced himself that he's struck a blow for free speech. Instead, he's published some that are totally innocuous and some that, to be honest, look like they're ripping off stereotypical depictions of Jews while trying to be as offensive as possible. (Also, that website weirds me out a bit.) Then there's the one with the kid that's pinging me as creepily xenophobic. No one should have ever been killed over those cartoons, but that doesn't make publishing them a revolutionary act or something. (Come to think of it, you know what would have been revolutionary for a Danish newspaper? Having an article called 'Faces of Mohammed' depicting Danes called Mohammed.)
posted by hoyland at 6:16 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


But there are hate speech laws on the books, too.

No, there are not. In the United States, so-called "hate speech" is protected by the First Amendment, despite the best efforts of those who would rather ban the speech of their opponents than prevail in debate to pretend - and on occasion legislate - otherwise.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:29 PM on September 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


speaker gets paid out of student fees. Agrees to speak. Is shouted down. Now we get horsecrap justification saying that is ok. You don't like a person who is to speak? Don't attend. You attend, there are certain civilized requirements. Today, the Americans walked out on Iranian dude for his insults. they did not shout him down.
posted by Postroad at 6:42 PM on September 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


It is rude to speak while another is speaking.

picking your nose in public is 'rude' as well. how many other hecklers got the same charge? What about the guy who stepped on a woman cause he didn't want her around Ron Paul? I'll wait.
posted by the mad poster! at 6:51 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Without actually placing judgment on the events (although I do have a solid set of opinions), I think this is a fascinating case study. If you Put any group disrupting any speaker for political reasons at any event, should that equation always result in criminal convictions? Are the disrupters always violating someone else's First Amendment rights? Are they ever expressing their First Amendment rights? I would hope that this is applied consistently, as to people of all stripes.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:40 PM on September 23, 2011


In America, somebody named Mohammad cannot, by definition, be "just a kid". They are a terrorist in waiting. A determined anti-Western radical. Throw the book at that bastard. We know just what they're up to, don't we?

I'd just like to disagree with Avenger and point out the fact that not everyone in America is an anti-Muslim racist. The vast majority are not. The statement above, although clearly hyperbole, is misleading and offensive. Many Muslims I know consider the US to be much more tolerant and welcoming than most of Europe.
posted by emd3737 at 9:15 PM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


What about the guy who stepped on a woman cause he didn't want her around Ron Paul?

Rand Paul. He plead no contest to assault charges and is on probation, plus he had to fork out for her medical bills.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:03 PM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


If people are being killed over cartoons, that makes publishing them a blow for freedom of speech, period.

Lynchings were most often used as a non-state sanctioned restraint on speech and organization in the South.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:50 AM on September 24, 2011


Your rights end where the other guy's begin.
posted by resurrexit at 2:47 PM on September 23 [+] [!]


Between equal rights, force decides.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:06 PM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It isn't liberal to try to shut up those with whom you disagree.

It is rude to speak while another is speaking.

I just wish this platitude was applied fairly, like when the gay soldier got booed loudly over his question to the Republican candidates about DADT. Somehow that platitude just rings like so much bullshit, otherwise. Sorry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 PM on September 24, 2011


Though I too wonder what the relevance is of the student's religious affiliation.

In this case, because the Muslim student Union itself was suspended for a year.

Moreover, the flavor of the story changes radically if the protester is Muslim, or Mormon, or, as can happen, Jewish.

In general, deliberately and obviously leaving such information out is a bit patronizing (“I certainly don’t find that interesting or relevant and you shouldn’t either!”) and is only going to fuel the curiosity of readers who know damn well there’s something they’re not being told. Long term, it undermines credibility.

Me, I like my information unedited.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:56 AM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lynchings were most often used as a non-state sanctioned restraint on speech and organization in the South.

jeffburdges, I believe it would be more accurate to say,

Lynchings were most often used as a discreetly but tacitly state-sanctioned restraint on speech and organization in the South.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:39 PM on September 25, 2011


you're equal but different
you're equal but different
you're equal but different
you're equal but different
you're equal but different
you're equal but different
it's obvious
it's obvious
so obvious.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:15 AM on September 26, 2011


Yeah, fair enough. Yet, the point remains : Any work that earns it's creator a death threat or gets someone killed deserves additional publicity, readers, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:16 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If people are being killed over cartoons, that makes publishing them a blow for freedom of speech, period.

I think that means Politiken reprinting them counts as a blow for freedom of speech, but it doesn't say anything about the original Jyllandsposten publication. I don't think the original publication was meant to be more than 'Ha ha, aren't we clever and edgy?' Being a dick doesn't mean we have to celebrate you later for striking a blow for freedom of speech.

(Also, in my original comment, I managed to write Islamaphobia for Islamaphonic, even though I remember thinking about not doing that when I wrote the comment. If you can track it down--it's the episode in Berlin, I think--the interview is worth listening to, if only because it's rage-inducing.)
posted by hoyland at 4:32 AM on September 26, 2011


I think that means Politiken reprinting them counts as a blow for freedom of speech, but it doesn't say anything about the original Jyllandsposten publication.

No, the artists and Jyllandsposten were exposing themselves to predictable religious institution supported violence aimed as suppressing speech, which makes publishing them a blow for freedom of speech.

You might claim they couldn't understand the consequences of their actions. I donno myself, but presumably they wouldn't be the first such unwitting heroes. There is a lovely unix fortune that I always miss-attribute to Dr. Who :

"There is a fine line between being brave and being foolish. Too bad it's not a fence."
posted by jeffburdges at 12:31 PM on September 26, 2011


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