|AJC Urges California Court to Uphold Conviction of UC Irvine Hecklers|
July 8, 2013 – Los Angeles – AJC is
urging the Appellate Division of the California Superior Court in Orange County
to uphold the conviction of 10 individuals for repeatedly interrupting Israeli
Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at the University of California at Irvine.
“The First Amendment guarantee of
freedom of speech may not be invoked to protect those who intentionally disrupt
a lawful meeting,” said AJC General Counsel Marc D. Stern.
The AJC (American Jewish Committee)
filed an amicus brief in State
v. Sayeed, in which the ten protestors are seeking to overturn
their conviction for violating a California statute banning disruption of
public meetings. As a result of the vocally disruptive protestors, Ambassador
Oren’s speech on February 8, 2010, was curtailed to 12 minutes, instead of an
Joining AJC in the brief are the
Jewish Council of Public Affairs and Jewish National Fund. The brief quotes
Justice Stanley Mosk of the California Supreme Court, who stated: “[t]he
freedom of everyone to talk at once can destroy the right of anyone effectively
to talk at all.” The brief noted that “there is liberty in the marketplace of
ideas, but that marketplace cannot thrive in anarchy.”
The brief cites other examples of
government regulation of speech to maintain order in the marketplace of ideas,
such as regulating access to broadcast frequencies and insisting on parade
permits to ensure that different parades do not march at the same time.
These regulations and California’s
ban on disruption of public meetings forbid the freedom of speech from being
used to “snuff out free speech of others” and serve to prevent a heckler from
vetoing speech which she or he finds offensive, Honey Kessler Amado, lead
author of the brief, said.
A no disruption rule does not
silence protestors, states the brief. For example, “[protestors] could have
picketed outside of the University’s auditorium;…attended the speech wearing
buttons or T-shirts protesting Israel’s policies; they could have…participated
in the question-and-answer period; and they could have organized their own
“What they could not do is what they
are being punished for—preventing Ambassador Oren from speaking,” said Amado.
The 10 were sentenced to 56 hours of
community service, and three years of probation.
The brief was written by Honey
Kessler Amado, a member of the AJC Los Angeles Region Board; Avital Blanchard,
AJC Assistant General Counsel; and Marc Stern, AJC General Counsel.
Date: 7/8/2013 12:00:00 AM