Long Time Coming

University Issues: Charging the students who allegedly disrupted a speech at UC Irvine is fair, but it should not have taken a whole year.

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The decision to charge with misdemeanors 11 students who interrupted a protest last year at UC Irvine is an appropriate response to the students' conduct, but it raises questions about the timing of the charges.

The privilege of free speech is a constitutionally protected right that we wholeheartedly support, but it does not protect those who interfere with the right of others.

Planning in advance to stand up and disrupt the speech of Israeli Ambassador, as the students allegedly did, is a violation of the law that carries with it real penalties. If the students did break the law, then they should face the legal consequences that their actions carry.

Justice can only be fair if all laws are enforced equally, and we call on this prosecutor to apply the same standard to this group that has been applied to any group that has been charged with unlawfully conspiring to interrupt a speech. The fact that some of the students were members of the Muslim Students Union, or that the speaker was the Israeli ambassador, is irrelevant and should not be a factor.

However, we do not understand why it took the district attorney's office almost an entire year to file charges. At the very least, the district attorney could have explained in his statement his reasons for the delay. The incident was one year ago today, and, while the county had a year in which to file charges, waiting the entire amount of time to do so maximized the disruption of the students academic lives and seems to serve little legal purpose.

The students face six months in jail, fines or community service, but we think that of those three, community service would be the fairest sentence if they are found guilty of the charges. The charges stem from disrupting a community at the speech - how better to make amends than by helping one?

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