Following the UCLA silent walk-out protest last week, and a walk-out action at Michigan State University in late February (the latest in a years-long series of similar protest actions against visiting Israeli officials and military personnel), students at UC Irvine in Southern California staged a silent walk-out during a presentation by Israeli soldiers on campus on 1 March. It is not clear whether the soldiers who came to UCI are the same ones that visited UCLA — an event that was sponsored by Israel lobby group StandWithUs, and meant to counter UCLA’s Palestine Awareness Week.
Students at UC Irvine have become infamous for their protest actions against Israeli officials — in February 2010, eleven UCI students (dubbed the Irvine 11) were arrested for their civil disobedience/free speech action when they stood up and protested during the Israeli ambassador’s speech on campus. The students were brought to trial and convicted last Fall by the Orange County District Attorney’s office, but were only sentenced to community service.
Despite egregious attempts by the university administration and the district attorney’s office to intimidate students at UCI from Palestine solidarity activism, the students seem not to be deterred. After the trial ended in September, one of the Irvine 11 students, Taher Herzallah, told the crowd of reporters:
My message is to all those activists who have been watching this story closely. All of those who speak truth to power. And all of those who challenge the status quo. Do not let this case deter you. Do not let this case falter your activism. Make this the platform to intensify activism on the Palestine issue in this country.