Attorneys for the Irvine 11, students arrested for protesting a speech made by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren last year, called for the removal of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas from the case at yesterday’s arraignment.
As a result, no plea was entered by the students and the next hearing will be held on April 15th, where Judge Peter J. Wilson will reveal his decision about this request.
More than a hundred community members, students, and civic and interfaith leaders gathered at the
Santa Ana Courthouse on Friday, March 11 at 9:30am, when Judge Wilson announced the delay.
At a press conference held immediately after, seven of the Irvine 11 and their lawyers addressed the public and OC District Attorney Rackauckas, questioning the legitimacy of the charges and investigation methods used in this case.
“The DA has engaged in questionable and unlawful conduct to investigate this case and to bring these unprecedented, highly selective and discriminatory criminal charges against the students,” stated Reem Salahi, one of the Irvine 11 attorneys.
Daniel Mayfield, an alumnus of UC Irvine and one of the attorneys representing the Irvine 11, further explained that the DA convened a grand jury, subpoenaed material to the grand jury, and issued search warrants, all of which are considered illegal in a misdemeanor case. Mayfield also pointed out other misconduct involving the DA’s proceedings, including emails that labeled the case as the “UCI Muslim Case.”
“This shows concern on their part not for law, not for justice but for the perceived religion of our clients and for the perceived religion of those involved in the protest,” stated Mayfield.
In regards to these activities, Mayfield announced that an informal discovery request has been filed to remove the DA from the Irvine 11 case. The disqualification of the DA from this proceeding would result in the District Attorney of the state of California to take over.
Susan Schroeder, the spokeswoman for Rackauckas denied any claims that the charges against the Irvine 11 were propelled by racial motivations, bringing up a second misdemeanor case that was filed on December 8th, 2011 against nineteen UC Irvine students who occupied the Chancellor’s office in protest for workers’ rights.
Schroeder pointed out that the case of the Irvine 19 is not perceived to be racially motivated whereas the Irvine 11 are thought to be prosecuted because they are Muslim.
“Our position on why the Irvine 11 protested is clear,” stated Schroeder, “they did not want an Israeli Ambassador speaking in front of them and they denied the hundreds of people gathered to listen to him this first amendment right.”
In addition to the attorneys, several other individuals took to the podium, among them Rabbi Haim Beliak of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative, who spoke about the importance of the religious community’s role in supporting the Irvine 11 and starting the process of “reconciliation” between the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Furthermore, Ali Mohammad Sayeed, one of the Irvine 11, read from a written statement that thanked organizations such as the Jewish Voice for Peace, National Lawyers Guild and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, as well as numerous college faculty members, student groups and organizations for their support in the past year.
The amount of support for the Irvine 11 was evident in the number of people gathered there and distances some traveled to be present at the arraignment. Amal Dalmar, a second year International Studies and Ethnic studies double major, drove from UC San Diego to attend the arraignment.
“If one person in our community is threatened and we don’t stand up for it,” explained Dalmar, “then the next time something happens to one of us it wouldn’t be fair to assume that someone else would speak for us.”