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HUNTINGTON BEACH : Judge Puts Campus Rally, Vigil on Hold

An Orange County Superior Court judge on Tuesday prohibited a Golden West College student group from holding a rally and 24-hour vigil on campus this week.

Judge Jack K. Mandel ruled that there was no urgency in holding the rally during the first week of school. But he also said that the students should be able to hold the rally later.

Attorney Alfredo Amezcua, representing MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), argued that prohibiting club members from staging a demonstration--in an effort to speak out against the club’s suspension for about a month last spring--would be unconstitutional.

College officials argued that the rally would disrupt students on the first days of school, and sought a restraining order to prevent the club from holding the rally.

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Mandel sided with the college, but also said the club could hold the overnight vigil at a public park because the school is not open all night, and no one would listen to their protest.

Club members had decided before Tuesday’s court hearing to cancel the protest because they were afraid they could be arrested should the judge rule in favor of the college.

Philip Westin, the college’s president, said MEChA was suspended temporarily last spring because the club allegedly participated in several “inappropriate” actions, including sponsoring a scholarship fund-raiser where alcohol was served. Westin also said the club boycotted a recruitment drive by the college aimed at attracting Latino students.

Ana Carbajal, MEChA’s spokeswoman, denied that the club had alcohol at the fund-raiser. A campus security officer found no alcohol at the fund-raiser, a report said.

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Westin said he read the report but said that, on further investigation by Vice President of Student Services William Carpenter, he concluded that alcohol was present at the dance.

The suspension was lifted but the college is not recognizing MEChA as an official club because it does not have an adviser. Westin is prohibiting MEChA’s previous advisers to continue with the club.

Because the club is not recognized, the college required the club to get $1 million liability insurance before holding the rally. MEChA did not buy the insurance.

Judge Mandel ruled that getting insurance “shall not be an obstacle” for a rally.

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MEChA President Miguel Guizar said the club will consider holding a rally sometime this semester.

“We won’t have the vigil but we can still make a lot of noise,” he said.


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