Interfaith Leaders Ask District Attorney To Terminate 'Irvine 11' Investigation

October 15, 2010

A group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders from the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative sent a letter this week to the Orange County District Attorney's office calling for the DA office to drop a criminal investigation of the student protest at UC Irvine in February which resulted in the arrest of 11 students.

Signed by more than 20 interfaith leaders, including Salam Al-Marayati, President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the letter expressed outrage that DA office investigators are impersonating law enforcement agents in order to build a case against the students. The letter goes on to ask the DA office to leave the matter to university officials.

On Feb. 8, a group of 11 students -- eight from UC Irvine and three from UC Riverside -- were arrested for shouting criticisms during Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren speech at UCI. The students criticized Oren and Israel's military attack last year on Gaza. Following the incident, the students were arrested and are currently facing criminal charges, as well as university disciplinary action.

Though one may disagree with the student's tactics, these do not warrant the student's having a criminal record for supporting human rights. The interfaith leaders believe the incident should be left in the hands of university officials, and that the DA investigation is waste of time and resources. The leaders stand with UCI, which is against the investigation, and ask the DA to terminate the investigation and to not bow to political pressure when it comes to addressing Middle Eastern affairs.

The letter reads:

We are writing to you on behalf of several organizations including the Abrahamic Faith
Peacemaking Initiative.

On February 8, 2010, a group of students protested the speech of Israeli Ambassador
Michael Oren at the University of California - Irvine (UCI). While our institutions and
membership may have different perspectives on the tactics and propriety of the strategy
used by these students to express their views, we are unified in our common belief that
the incident at UCI should be resolved by campus officials and campus student

That said, it has been reported to us that investigators purportedly associated with your
office are impersonating law enforcement officers and approaching UCI students for the
purpose of gathering information to develop a criminal case against the protesters. This
is not only disingenuous, it violates the trust between law enforcement and the people
those officials are sworn to protect - the American public. For this reason, we are
deeply disturbed by reports that you are leading a criminal investigation of the February
8 student protest. Many student protests take place every semester of the school
calendar year in many campuses. We have yet to learn of one, however, that
did not involve any destruction of property or physical altercation that also led to criminal

We want to reiterate our stand - this incident was and is being dealt with
administratively and internally by university officials. There is no need for investigators
and prosecutors to utilize scarce time and resources on this case. Moreover, we
understand that this investigation is being conducted against the will of the University.
We stand with UCI, and ask you to terminate this investigation and move on to other
matters. To do otherwise creates the perception that your office is bowing to political
pressure to prosecute the students.

With respect, we are community leaders with long-term involvement in these matters.
We understand and appreciate the level of passion that people bring to the topic of the
Middle East, and we appreciate that there are as many differences of opinion within
each of our communities as there are between them. We are also unified in our belief
that our role as community leaders should be one of support, guidance for more
constructive engagement, and speaking out as one voice against extremism – political
or religious.

We strongly urge that you cease criminal investigation of this matter immediately. The
campus environment at UCI can improve if that community and university officials
dedicate themselves to promoting and supporting civil discourse about the Middle East.
Intervention from law enforcement will only hinder, not help, that effort.


Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, Chair, Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative
(representing over 40 interfaith leaders, including:)
Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council
Elissa Barrett, Executive Director, Progressive Jewish Alliance
Rev. J. Edwin Bacon, Rector, All-Saints Church, Pasadena
Imam Jihad Turk, Islamic Center of Southern California
Rabbi Haim Beliak, Jews on First
Rev. Frank Alton, Executive Director, Prepare the Future
Rev. Matthew Colwell, Knox Presbyterian Church
Rabbi Neil Commess-Daniel, Congregation Beth Shir Shalom
Peter Laarman, Progressive Christians Uniting
Pastor Paige Eaves
Steve Wiebe, Executive Director, New Vision Partners
Rev. George Regas, Emeritus Rector, All-Saints Church, Pasadena
Rabbi Steven Jacobs, Emeritus, Kol Tikvah
Shawn Landres
Professor Rebecca Golbert, Pepperdine University
Rabbi Leonard Beerman
Bear Ride
Susan Craig
Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director, CAIR-LA

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