Will U.S. Defend Free Speech? Why We Must Convict the Irvine 11

| by

Eleven students from the University of Irvine and the University of Riverside denied Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren (pictured) his right to speak at a speech intended to be delivered in February 2010. Eleven consecutive outbursts by eleven students brought Michael Oren's intended speech to an end. Oren was never given the opportunity to complete his speech at a University event to which he had been invited. The 700 people who went to the UC Irvine campus to hear Oren's talk were also denied their individual rights to hear the speech.

The intent of the members of UC Irvine's Muslim Student Association was to shut down the event. Whereas the Association initially denied these claims, emails from within the group later proved their denial to be false. Email excerpts show that the group expected Michael Oren would begin to react to the free speech deniers, and "after the first few [disruptions] he starts reacting to us, and the program will be successfully taken over." The University of Irvine later suspended the Muslim Student Association for a period of one year.

The trial, taking place in Orange County, will come to an end this week. Jurors will have the opportunity to deliver an innocent or guilty verdict to 10 of the 11 protesters being tried. In his closing statement, Dan Wagner, attorney for the prosecution, told jurors the students acted as censors to block the free flow of ideas and infringed on the rights of 700 people who had gone to the campus that evening to hear Oren. He said emails among members of the Muslim Student Union showed students were aware they could be arrested before the protest.