NEW YORK (JTA) — Hundreds of demonstrators converged on the administration building at the University of California, Irvine in support of 11 students who were arrested for disrupting a speech by Israel’s U.S. ambassador.
The protest Tuesday was met by a counter-demonstration of about 60 people organized by local Jewish student groups. The Jewish Federation of Orange County has called for the arrested students, who have come to be known as the "Irvine 11," to be prosecuted.
Supporters of the arrested students, convened by the Black Student Union and other groups, including the Muslim Student Union, said they were objecting to what they claim is the "conflating" of the Irvine incident with other recent acts of racism at California campuses, including the carving of a swastika into the dorm room door of a Jewish student at UC Davis and the recent discovery of a noose in the library at UC San Diego.
"They are trying to draw a connection between the ‘Irvine 11’ and racism," Irvine alumnus Marya Bangee told the Orange County Register. "[The Irvine 11 issue] is about free speech and student activism."
Both groups of demonstrators reportedly shouted at each other outside the administration building. There were no reports of violence.
"It was civil discourse of two different opinions," said Shalom Elcott, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, "although there was a lack of factual dialogue."
The arrests came during an address last month at Irvine by Ambassador Michael Oren.