Hundreds rally at UCI against racism, intolerance and arrests
Posted By joannaclay On March 3, 2010 @ 9:31 am In Education, Government-Politics, Local News
About 250 people at UC Irvine gathered for a “student solidarity speakout” Tuesday. They protested the university’s recent arrests of students, along with the spate of racist incidents at UC San Diego that targeted black students and another incident last month at UC Davis, which targeted a Jewish student with a swastika carved on her door.
UCI is still dealing with the fallout from the February arrests of 11 students after disrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech on campus and 17 students last week for blocking access to an administration building during a protest. The students arrested at the ambassador’s speech are facing criminal charges and UCI has announced that disciplinary actions, including expulsion, are possibilities.
Students and other speakers initially gathered at the Student Center at noon to share thoughts on the spate of events on UC campuses. After the rally, the crowd marched around Ring Road and then gathered together and chanted, “Real pain! No action. Real pain! No action.” Later, they moved to the doors of the administration building where supporters from multiple perspectives protested amid a sea of flags. Police blocked off the building within half an hour.
“We’re rallying in solidarity with all the events that have been going on at this campus. All of the protests that have been happening … The 11 students that were arrested at Ambassador Oren’s event … The 17 students that were arrested at the sit-in,” Ryan Davis, a student arrested last week, said. “We really just want to bring attention to all these things.”
Many of the speakers mentioned their perception of the media coverage, believing has been pro-Israeli and perpetuating racial intolerance. “There are stories about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger saying that he is upset with all the ‘acts of racism and intolerance’ that have happened over the past couple weeks,” UCI alum Russell Curry said, upset that the governor lumped in the UCI protest against Oren with the UCSD incidents.
Curry argued that the students’ disruption at Oren’s speech was an act of civil disobedience, not racism. The incidents on other UC campuses, he said, are not free speech but clearly racist acts.
“How can a noose be compared to students speaking out against a country convicted of war crimes?” he said.
Isaac Yerushalmi, past-president of Anteaters for Israel, said that students from the Muslim Student Union and others were distorting the historical conflict by calling it racist. “It’s about two peoples trying to create their own countries. It’s a struggle,” he said. “What they’re doing is counter-productive to what is going on in the Middle East.”
UCI spokeswoman Catchy Lawhon called the lunchtime talk “a peaceful exchange” and said no arrests were made.
“It was a classic demonstration of free speech and the exchange ideas on this campus,” Lawhon said. “Students expressed their opinion on a variety of issues.”