Monday, November 20, 2006

NewU Commentary: UCIPD Went Overboard at Ayn Rand Event

And yet another piece from this week's NewU, this one from the author of last week's article, giving more insight into his experience at the controversial event:

Link to article

UCIPD Went Overboard at Ayn Rand Event
By Paul Backus

Here in the United States, we like to think that our laws and law enforcement help to protect the innocent. People should have the peace of mind of knowing that before they can be arrested, they must commit a crime of some kind.

On Monday, Nov. 6, however, the UC Irvine Police Department arrested 15 people after they began singing to protest a guest speaker, an action which, according to Chief Paul Henisey, would not usually warrant arrest. But the singers were members of the LaRouche Youth Movement, which had previously heckled a guest speaker at the University of Southern California by throwing condoms and raw meat.

And there was one little detail omitted from the article I wrote last week (“Fifteen Arrested at Ayn Rand Club Event,” Nov. 13). UCIPD also threatened to arrest me for trying to get interviews at the scene.

When the arrests began, I was interviewing LYM members, but was asked to step aside for “right now.” I complied and, once the detainees were sitting down and everything was calm, I tried to find a UCI student among the LaRouche members to interview. Here’s what happened, transcribed word for word off of my digital recorder:

Me: Hey, are any of you guys students here by any chance?

UCIPD: We need you to leave! You’re interfering.

Me: OK, sorry. Sorry sir.

UCIPD: And if you interrupt again, you’re going to be arrested. Do you understand?

Me: OK.

UCIPD: You’ve been warned two times now!

Me: OK, I’m sorry. Could any of you guys go on record after, after whatever you’re…

UCIPD: Two times you’re warned. You’re gonna go to jail next time!

Me: OK.

UCIPD: Step away farther!

Me: All right.

Just to make sure I’m crystal clear, this happened while the LaRouche members were seated on the ground, under arrest. There was no plausible way that communicating with the protestors could have hindered the officers’ ability to control the situation.

The fact that this whole incident went unmentioned in last week’s front-page story demonstrates a rule of “objective journalism” that sometimes drives me crazy. Since it happened to me, it couldn’t be included in the article because I’m not supposed to mention myself.

If there had been another reporter being bullied by the campus cops, I could have reported his story as news, and readers of the article could have had a better grasp of the level of criminal activity for which our local authorities are willing to send someone to jail. Unfortunately, it happened to the only writer at the scene.

But let’s get back to the LaRouche arrests. USC’s student paper, the “Daily Trojan,” quotes their Department of Public Safety chief, Carey Drayton, as describing the condom-throwing incident as “very peaceful.”

The authorities present in Los Angeles when the situation occurred did not see a need to take any action beyond ejecting the protestors, because they left when asked.

But Henisey said last week that UCIPD considered that event, plus the singers’ apparent plans to keep on singing, sufficient grounds to arrest everybody involved.

In my mind, there’s no doubt that the LaRouche folks are kind of crazy. While discussing these shenanigans with some buddies last weekend, one of my friend’s new roommates told me that she knew someone who had joined the LYM and had virtually disappeared off the face of the earth shortly thereafter. This type of cult-like behavior on the part of LYM members is a common accusation. But I’m far from convinced that they did anything that warranted their arrest on that historic Monday night.

We may never get a satisfactory answer as to what exactly triggered the handcuffing spree on Nov. 6. A review of the weekly police logs this year reveals that even activities like loud indoor jogging can be considered reportable offenses here in Irvine, and since Los Angeles has a lot more actual crime, this could be a factor in the drastically different action taken by USC’s campus police in response to protesting.

I wonder what else you can get arrested for around here. Maybe the next time some abandoned papers are littering the campus grounds, tree-huggers can at least hope that the delinquents who recklessly committed this offense against our Mother Earth were caught in the act by the proper authorities and are now serving some serious time.

Then again, pollution is more of a liberal concern. The tree-huggers should make sure they criticize the litterer very respectfully, or they could wind up in jail, especially if they’ve ever been in a protest before.

Paul Backus is a third-year literary journalism major.

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