Eleven arrests were made for disturbing the peace and four for resisting arrest when a radical liberal group with a flair for theatricality disrupted a controversial speech by the president of the Ayn Rand Institute, last Monday Night.
The speaker was Yaron Brook, brought to campus by the Ayn Rand Club. The protestors were members of the LaRouche Youth Movement.
This latest showdown had been building for some time. On Oct. 27, the same LaRouche members who came to UCI Monday night had protested the same speaker at the University of Southern California by hurling liquid-filled condoms at the guest and plopping a raw steak on his notes. In the week before Brook arrived in Irvine, LaRouche members handed out flyers on campus, inviting students to ‘join the fun’ in whatever they had planned for ‘Nazi Yaron Brook.’
Brook began his speech by addressing a premature question yelled out by a LaRouche supporter, who questioned seemingly excessive police presence at the event.
‘I’ll assume that’s an honest question,’ Brook said. ‘The reason is because we were [told] in advance that this event would be disrupted, that there would be protests and that we would not be able to speak.’
Brook continued relatively un-heckled, receiving only a smattering of laughter at his speech impediment, which protestors likened to that of Elmer Fudd. But all of a sudden, protestors throughout the audience stood up and started singing, delivering lyrics like ‘300,00 Muslims died. / Sounds like Nazi genocide’ in an a cappella choir style. UCI police began escorting the vocalists outside, where authorities arrested LaRouche protestors.
At one point, a protestor attempted to escape arrest and was pinned down by the UCI Police Department.
‘Hey freedom of speech guy! I got arrested for watching!’ hollered another arrested protester from inside a police car.
‘I don’t know on what grounds they could arrest me,’ said Tarrajna Dorsey, a LaRouche supporter from Washington.
Some observers who were not arrested seemed surprised at what they considered an extreme reaction to the inappropriate singing.
‘There’s been a double standard set,’ said third-year criminology and social psychology major William Layne. ‘[The Muslim Student Union] had an event a couple weeks ago and a lot of people from the Israeli community were out protesting, singing, speaking and yelling over the speaker, but no people were arrested. No police reprimanded anyone, and this is for singing.’
‘It seems like when the more conservative groups go up to have their say, the more liberal groups always get arrested,’ said MSU member Marya Bangee, a third-year sociology and English double major. ‘It’s the extreme right and the extreme left coming at each other. Yaron Brook is basically discredited. He’s calling upon the mass genocide of thousands upon thousands of innocent people.’
She added that the MSU had nothing to do with this event because ‘it’s expressing two viewpoints that aren’t even really active on this campus or the American mainstream.’
UCI Chief of Police Paul Henisey acknowledged that the department’s response to the singing was severe, but he said that the arrests were justified in this case.
‘In most cases, we’d ask [disrupters] to stop, and the second time we’d ask them to leave,’ Henisey said. ‘But we were well aware that these were the same individuals who had vandalized the notes [at USC]. When they began singing, it was clear they were not going to stop.’
Henisey also added that out of the 15 people who were arrested that night, 12 were cited and released. Only three people were detained overnight, all of whom had obstructed the police, not just protested. Only one of the people arrested was a UCI student, and he was not associated with LaRouche.
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