Charges against Muslim students prompt debate about free speech
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When administrators at the University of California, Irvine, decided to suspend the Muslim Student Union for a quarter over the disruption of a speech last year by the Israeli ambassador to the United States, most thought the latest controversy on campus had ended.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas of Orange County, however, disagreed–and filed misdemeanor criminal charges last week against the 11 student protesters, accusing them of disturbing a public meeting and engaging in a conspiracy to do so.
The charges have not only reignited campus debate about the event but have also prompted a feisty argument about the role of free speech on a college campus, in this case one whose politics can seem as complicated as peace negotiations in the Middle East.
When the ambassador, Michael B. Oren, came to speak last February, several students stood up, one at a time, and interrupted him with shouted complaints about Israel. When the repeated outbursts continued deep into Mr. Oren's speech, the ambassador huddled with his security aides to decide whether to continue speaking. He did, but by the time the speech was over, 11 Muslim students had been arrested. The group became known as the "Irvine 11," although three were students from University of California, Riverside.
Sources: New York Times
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