After a heated public forum on April 25, the UC Davis Law Student Association (LSA) decided not to vote on a resolution that urges the district attorney of Orange County to drop the criminal charges against the “Irvine 11.”
Eleven students dubbed the Irvine 11 were arrested after protesting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at UC Irvine. The students have received undisclosed academic sanctions and now face two misdemeanor charges for disrupting a meeting, which could result in jail-time.
The resolution is not politically motivated, said Fatima Alloo, UC Davis law student and author of the resolution. It’s a statement that reaffirms the right of free speech and stands against the excessive criminal charges.
“This resolution has mistakenly been categorized as an Israeli-Palestinian issue …” Alloo said. “In reality, when 11 students face criminal charges in addition to facing academic consequences for a nonviolent protest on a UC campus, that is something every University of California student should be concerned about.”
There were many mixed opinions of the resolution at the public forum, said Daniel Watts, a UC Davis law student. In particular, many Jewish students were offended by it.
“[Controversy] makes people hate each other, and that’s something we’ve generally been able to stay clear from at the law school,” Watts said. “Even though the people that brought it up had good intentions, it just made people angry at each other and made a lot of people upset for a couple of weeks before the student government decided not to vote on it … they sort of dodged the bullet.”
However, Alloo noted that a common misconception was that the resolution was fueled by Israeli-Palestinian issues or Jewish-Muslim issues.
“Many students reacted to the alleged controversy behind proposing a resolution,” she said. “What’s funny is that if you read the resolution itself, it’s relatively noncontroversial in the sense that many scholars, professors and organizations are in agreement that criminal charges against these students are excessive.”
Rabia Paracha, a representative of LSA, noted that the resolution came around at a bad time – right before finals. Also, the issue trickled down from the previous LSA board that did not come to a consensus, and it was still a transition period for the new board. Paracha said LSA will release a statement instead in the near future.
Alloo was inspired to propose the resolution after faculty from the law school sent a letter to the district attorney of Orange County asking him to drop the criminal charges. Also, there was an event in which Irvine 11 defense attorney Reem Salahi, UC Davis School of Law Dean Kevin Johnson and Professor Alan Brownstein spoke about the case, the constitutional issues and the critical race theories, respectively.
Several undergraduate student governments have also passed resolutions – UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Berkeley and UCLA among them, Alloo said.
The resolution was the first ever considered by LSA, Watts said. He also said that he did not believe that this issue warranted a response from students at the law school.
“There were people that were hazed right outside King Hall during the fee increase protest, but we didn’t take a stance on that,” Watts said. “We never take a stance on anything and for us to take a stance on an issue that’s so far removed from the people at the law school here just wouldn’t make any sense.”
Alloo said that she proposed and drafted the resolution on her own, but it is co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society, National Lawyers Guild, Asian and Pacific American LSA, La Raza LSA, Muslim LSA, Civil Rights Outreach Project, Coalition for Diversity and the Native American Law Student Association.
Additionally, Alloo noted that she revised the resolution five times based on comments and feedback. Particularly, Alloo wanted to collaborate with members of the Jewish Law Student Association but JLSA believes that the resolution was a political move, she said.
“This is about defending the right to free speech on a college campus,” Alloo said. “It was disheartening that we couldn’t move past what the resolution wasn’t about – international politics.”
MARTHA GEORGIS can be reached at email@example.com.