Rights and Accountability 25 May 2011
Students at UC Irvine and UC Riverside who nonviolently disrupted a speech in February 2010 by Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the US, recently won an important victory in their case as another arraignment date is set for tomorrow.
On 13 May, attorneys for the “Irvine 11” — the eleven students who interrupted Oren’s speech and were subsequently arrested, detained, and now face criminal charges by the Orange County district attorney’s office in an unprecedented prosecution effort — filed and were granted a court order that “restrains the prosecution and the defense from using the media to potentially inflame the jury pool of Orange County.”
In a March 2011 article for The Electronic Intifada, I wrote that the OC district attorney’s spokeswoman, Susan Schroeder, told me on the phone that
“whether you like the speaker or not, it doesn’t matter … if the Ku Klux Klan disrupted a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., that would be a law violation.”
From a press release on the Stand with the Eleven solidarity website, the defense team for the Irvine 11 pointed out that:
“… the District Attorney had made unethical press statements that referred to the Irvine 11 as anti-Semitic, anarchists, and likened them to the Ku Klux Klan. The court’s order restraining public statements is a victory for the Irvine 11 because it requires the District Attorney’s office to abide by the Legal Rules of Professional Conduct and not attempt to litigate its case in the media or prevent the students from receiving a fair trial.”
The press release continued:
The filing comes ahead of two court hearings over the next six weeks in a misdemeanor case that has received national attention because of the issues of free speech amid a backdrop of continued strife in the Middle East.
“(Prosecutors) have disregarded their ethical obligations and acted as if they were throwing their hats into a political arena,” defense attorneys write in the motion, which was filed … on behalf of three of the 11 defendants.
The motion cites public statements made by Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, and Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner, who is prosecuting the case.
During an interview with a television reporter, Schroeder committed “an intolerable moral and legal sin” when she falsely accused the students of anti-Semitism, according to the filing.
A hearing on 17 June will address a motion on whether or not to “recuse the District Attorney” from the trial.
The arraignment tomorrow will take place once again at the Santa Ana courthouse, where the judge will determine whether or not to release the official transcripts of the first grand jury. As we’ve seen with the ongoing case of anti-war activists across the country, including The Electronic Intifada’s own Maureen Murphy, cracks are starting to appear in the local, state and federal government’s racist witch-hunts. Solidarity activists across the country are refusing to be intimidated by these absurd and dangerous processes, but there are many who still languish in US jails as the government attempts to criminalize political solidarity work.
The Irvine 11 supporters are asking for community members and media workers to come out tomorrow for the arraignment, adding that the judge in the case has noted how many people have come to the courtroom in the past. For more information and to sign up to attend the hearing, visit http://www.irvine11.com/.