SANTA ANA — UC Irvine's police chief was the first called to the witness stand in Thursday's Irvine 11 jury trial, whose defendants are accused of disrupting a speech last year by the Israeli ambassador to the United States.
Chief Paul Henisey answered questions as he was shown the minute-by-minute account of the events that took place at UCI on Feb. 8, 2010, when Ambassador Michael Oren spoke about U.S.-Israeli relations.
Shortly after Oren began his speech, the first students stood up, shouting, "Propagating murder is not an expression of free speech."
Henisey in his cross-examination by defense attorneys told Deputy District Attorney Dan Wagner that it was difficult to hear Oren's speech from where he stood in the room. Each time a student made a disruption, he said, cheers came from their supporters.
In a tape played in the courtroom Thursday, each disruptive student was shown being escorted out by campus police without further incident. All were cited, then released.
UCI political science professor Mark Petracca, who moderated the event, told the students that their behavior was embarrassing. Oren was disrupted a total of 10 times.
After the fourth disruption, Oren left the stage. UCI Chancellor Michael Drake then expressed disappointment and reminded the students of the university's sacred role in the free exchange of ideas.
"We must respect those freedoms or else they're taken away from us," he said in the video.
Oren returned 15 minutes after leaving to continue his speech.
As police escorted out the last student, another group of students stood up and walked out, cheering and chanting as they did so.
The leaving students were met by jeering, but Henisey said the cheering and chanting was much louder.
Oren was able to conclude his speech, which began about 30 minutes late, but not because of the students' disruptions.
FOR THE RECORD:
This paragraph has been corrected to say that Oren did complete his speech.
The students from UCI and UC Riverside, since collectively known as the Irvine 11, are charged with two misdemeanor counts for conspiracy to disrupt a public speech then disrupting the speech.
The Irvine 11 dropped to 10 after the district attorney's office tentatively dropped the charges against one of them, pending his completion of community service hours at a Costa Mesa soup kitchen.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys are arguing free-speech rights.
The students face up to six months in jail if convicted.