Irvine 11 Trial: Students Planned a 'Chicago-Style Disruption,' Emails Reveal

Categories: School Daze
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Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
​Trying to show jurors that the Muslim students on trial did not act spontaneously in their disruption of the speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, prosecutors presented a series of emails that were sent by the defendants in the days leading up to the protest on Feb. 8, 2010.  

The emails, obtained from Google by search warrant and shown today in court, discussed plans for a disruption similar to a 2009 incident at the University of Chicago, where about 30 demonstrators stood up in the crowd, one by one, to protest a lecture being given by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

One email, dated Feb. 5, 2010, contained the minutes from a general assembly meeting of UC Irvine's Muslim Student Union (MSU). The goal of the protest, the minutes stated, was to "send the speaker a message" and show him that "he can't just go to a campus and say whatever he wants." Included in the document were plans to "disrupt the whole event" and "shut down with individual disruption." 

An email that followed addressed possible consequences of the demonstration--students predicted that they might be arrested and escorted out, but "nothing permanent" would happen "based on [the] history of UCI PD." It also warned student demonstrators: "Do not resist police if you are told to leave."   

And then there was another email that discussed a plan to detach the student organization from the protest, stating that the demonstration is "officially not an MSU thing" and "to the outside, we are acting on our own accord."    
 
The Orange County District Attorney's Office has charged 10 UCI and UC Riverside students (down from 11)--Mohamed Mohy-Eldeen Abdelgany, Khalid Gahgat Akari, Aslam Abbasi Akhtar, Joseph Tamim Haider, Taher Mutaz Herzallah, Shaheen Waleed Nassar, Mohammad Uns Qureashi, Ali Mohammad Sayeed, Osama Ahmen Shabaik and Asaad Mohamedidris Traina--with misdemeanor charges of disrupting and/or conspiring to disrupt a public speech. Lead prosecutor Dan Wagner has argued that the defendants did not want to engage Oren in an "exchange of ideas," but instead intended to "shut him down."
 
However, after today's court proceedings, Kifah Shah, spokesperson for the Stand with the 11 campaign, said she believes the emails are actually "evidence that [the defendants] were staying within the boundaries of the law." She believes the OCDA has "set a very dangerous precedent of stifling critical discourse across college campuses."   

Earlier in the day, prosecutors brought to the witness stand Rhoda Harris, who attended Oren's speech. She said she found it "frightening" when the Ambassador had to be removed from the stage following the demonstration. "One can voice opposition, but not at the expense of someone else's voice," she said. 



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