"Irvine 11" Are Not Sole UCI Activists to Draw Heat from DA; Meet the "Irvine 19" (or 17+2)

As last year's surge of student activism fades from the public eye, the memory remains fresh among those who participated on the UC Irvine campus, as they prepare for their upcoming court hearings, more than a year after the actions for which they are being charged.

Campus activism has kept Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas busy.

The bulk of the media and online attention has been focused on the so-called "Irvine 11," who interrupted a speech on campus last year by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States. The students, who face misdemeanor charges, had their early March arraignment postponed to this Friday, April 15.

But 19 UCI students, workers and supporters were also arrested last year for a campus demonstration. All have pleaded not guilty and face a pre-trial court hearing that has been moved from March 7 to May 6.

Chancellor Michael Drake: not home
On Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010, 17 students, workers and supporters entered Aldrich Hall, UCI's administration building, and held a nearly two-hour sit-in along the fifth-floor hallway leading to Chancellor Michael Drake's office. Although Drake was not present, the protesters refused to leave, chanting phrases such as "Drake's University? Our university!" until campus police arrested them one by one. Two other activists were arrested at a concurrent protest outside Aldrich Hall.

The demonstrators--who have been dubbed the "Irvine 17," "Irvine 19" or "Irvine 17+2"--said at the time they were lashing out against a 32 percent fee increase, "exploitative" subcontracting of custodial workers and "persistent" racism in the UC system, where several campuses have reported low enrollment numbers for African-American students, offensive racially themed parties and nooses in public areas.

Participants were released the same day as their arrests. The dean of students placed the students on academic probation for a year and ordered each one to perform 30 hours of community service and write a five-page reflection letter and 10-page paper on the First Amendment.

As they completed their punishments, the students were informed on Dec. 9, 2010, the last day of the academic quarter, that the Orange County District Attorney had decided to press criminal charges against them for disorderly conduct. Some have speculated the timing of announcing charges was intended to lessen the likelihood for students to organize any sort of rally against the DA heading into winter break.

In the months since the charges were filed, there has been chatter on campus about the DA's office subpoenaing student academic records and UCI email accounts, including communications between them and their academic advisers and, for defendants who have taught, them and their own students. There has also been talk of a deal defendants have rejected: three years formal probation with no jail time.

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