UC Irvine Braces for Possible Backlash Over Re-Screening of Pro-Israel Film That Stirred Violence on Campus
Officials at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) are preparing for possible backlash over the re-screening of a film that was the cause of a violent protest last month by anti-Israel student groups, a spokesperson for UCI told The Algemeiner on Wednesday, ahead of the event.
According to Cathy Lawhon, UCI is “planning for the possibility” of controversy and protest against the event and have even set aside a specific area across the street from the venue where protesters can gather. “Plans to keep the auditorium area secure are in place,” she said, adding, “Only people who have RSVP’d can get in.”
The sold-out event — titled “UCI Celebrates Free Speech” — is expected to draw hundreds of Israel-supporters to the to the campus.
Lawhon told The Algemeiner that UCI Dean of Students Rameen Talesh “has reached out to oppositional groups to find out their plans, but have not heard back because it is finals week.”
While the UCI spokesperson was unable to comment on the specific procedures that will be in place, she said, “Adequate security has been determined as necessary by the Constructive Engagement team, which met on Monday ahead of the event. Each event that is sponsored on campus is assessed individually by security depending on the size and potential for controversy for the amount of security it would require.”
As The Algemeiner reported late last month, members of the local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Muslim Student Union (MSU) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) violently protested a pro-Israel campus event — co-sponsored in part by Students Supporting Israel and UCI Hillel — featuring Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans and the screening of a movie about the army.
The small group of attendees was blockaded inside the room in which the screening took place, and one female student was harassed and chased, to the point where she was forced to flee and take refuge inside a nearby building. Protesters shouted “long live the intifada,” “f*** the police,” “displacing people since ‘48/ there’s nothing here to celebrate” and “all white people need to die.” Police were called in to restore order, but allowed the protest to continue.
Lisa Armory, executive director of the Hillel Foundation of Orange County — a co-sponsor of Wednesday night’s screening — told The Algemeiner, “We are working with the university campus police and administration and have been given assurances there will be sufficient security to ensure the re-screening of Beneath the Helmet runs as planned.”
The goal of the event, Armory said, “is for the Jewish community to come together to support Jewish students and others who want to engage in pro-Israel programming in an environment in which their safety is ensured and their rights are protected.”
“The hope is to reaffirm to these students that they should be confident in expressing their support for Israel and engaging in pro-Israel programming,” she added.
The event will feature Elan Carr, Criminal Gang Prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and Eden Adler, an IDF Commander (Res.) and star of Beneath the Helmet. Carr, Armory said, is “an active member of the Jewish and pro-Israel community…and is an expert on first amendment legal issues.” He will be addressing attendees with the goal of “helping students understand their rights in expressing their support for Israel.”
UCI has been the epicenter of several notorious antisemitic events over the last decade. In 2010, a group of anti-Israel students aggressively interrupted the speech of then-Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren to the pro-Israel community on campus. The students, who became infamously known as the “Irvine 11,” were arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to three years of informal probation, after being found guilty of conspiracy to disrupt and disrupting.