11 UCI Students and Supporters Guilty of Being Disorderly for Rowdy Protest Near Chancellor's Office
Eleven UC Irvine students and sympathizers were convicted today of being disorderly on campus, and if you think your intrepid reporter has been conked on the head and is re-reporting the outcome of the "Irvine 11" case, you are wrong.
Well, you are this time.
These 11 with freshly minted rap sheets were among the 19 rabble-rousers who were slapped with misdemeanor charges for occupying space outside Chancellor Michael Drake's office on Feb. 24, 2010, and refusing to budge.
That date, of course, only increases the confusion: the Irvine 11, who were Muslim students from the UCs of Irvine and Riverside, faced misdemeanors for disputing a Feb. 8, 2010, speech by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S.
Sixteen days later, around 9:30 in the morning, the same campus was the site of a rowdy protest against the dissolution of contract talks between UCI and a janitorial union and myriad issues plaguing the UC system including proposed massive tuition hikes and officials' lukewarm response to a racist UC San Diego student television production.
The 11 people convicted today entered the fifth floor of UCI's Aldrich Hall and gathered outside Drake's office where they engaged in disorderly conduct involving more than 40 people inside and outside the building by chanting, yelling slogans, blowing whistles and pounding on the walls and floor, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA).
In a statement announcing today's convictions, the OCDA notes that UCI has designated areas to practice free speech "in a safe and effective manner without disrupting the normal operations of the university. The UCI Code of Student Conduct places appropriate limitations on where demonstrations may be held without discrimination, and all students are expected to adhere to this code. In California, entering any land with the intention of interfering with or obstructing lawful business is misdemeanor trespassing."
Because the ruckus that February morning disrupted the 400 UCI employees inside Aldrich Hall, most of whom voluntarily evacuated at 11 a.m., the defendants were subject to the charges, the OCDA explains.
While the 11 who were convicted today were inside Aldrich Hall, John Bruning, 25, of Santa Ana, pushed a dumpster against the doors of the west exit outside the building. He also helped push a dumpster into the middle of Pereira Street, blocking traffic on one of the main streets on campus.
After UCI police read a dispersal order via bullhorn to the protesters around 11:15 a.m., the 11 convictees again refused to leave, sitting down in single file, yelling and banging on walls. Each was then arrested, although Bruning and the man accused of helping him move the dumpster Lagergren were not among the arrestees at the scene.
Bruning is among the non-students who pleaded guilty to charges in the case. His was one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment. He was sentenced to five days of Caltrans work and one year of informal probation. The other non-students pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count each of disturbing the peace and refusal to disperse were: Juan Antonio Castillo, 49, of Santa Ana; Evangelina Nevarez, 37, of Los Angeles; and Celene Perez, 29, also of LA. Each was sentenced to 10 days of Caltrans work and three years of informal probation.
The following seven students pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count each of disturbing the peace and refusal to disperse and were sentenced to 60 hours of community service and one year of informal probation: Moosa Matt Azadian, 21, of Anaheim; Fernando Chirino, 29, of Irvine; Saron Ephraim, 23, of Tustin; Dennis Lopez, 33, of Irvine; Sylvia Van Pham, 22, of Fountain Valley; Whitney Lauren Shepard, 23, of Irvine; and Samiyyah Jowharah Tillman, 23, of Irvine.
A case is pending against eight additional co-defendants, who are scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Nov. 29 in Santa Ana. They face sentences ranging from probation to a year in jail with convictions. Among them is the man accused of helping Bruning push the dumpster: James Eric Lagergren, 24, of Irvine. He is charged with one misdemeanor count each of false imprisonment, obstruction of a public place, and and being a public nuisance.
Eric Kitayama, 27, of Anaheim Hills, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of trespassing, and one misdemeanor count each of disturbing the peace and refusal to disperse. The remaining defendants face one misdemeanor count each of trespassing, disturbing the peace, and refusal to disperse: Rachel Denice Burton, 21, of Irvine; Ryan Sinclaire Davis, 23, of Santa Ana; Sandra Flores, 21, of Irvine; Indar Smith, 23, of Irvine; Aida Belaynes Soloman, 22, of Irvine; and Irendeep Kaur Srai, 23, of Irvine.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.