Volume 91, Issue 62

Tuesday, January 20, 1998

Little Bo Greek


Celebration of Isreal disrupted

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
POINT OF INTEREST. Two university police officers and a veiled protestor look on as Hussein Hamdani speaks with USC marketing and services manager Bob Klanac yesterday in the UCC.

By Mark Brown
Gazette Staff

For the second consecutive year, a Jewish celebration was disrupted by a single student protestor in the University Community Centre.

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Independence of Israel was hosted by the Jewish Students' Union yesterday.

The demonstrator, dressed in an artificially blood-stained shirt with his face and head covered with a scarf, was handing out pamphlets modeled after the JSU's posters used to advertise yesterday's celebration. The flyers acuse Israel of tyranny, oppression and bloodshed.

"The celebration was not intended to be a political statement, although there are certain people who do not accept Israel because they want a completely Arab area," said Michael Bloom, public relations officer for the JSU. He added the event is held annually to celebrate the birthday of Israel.

The University Police Department and Entertainment Productions manager Pete Stanbridge, who is responsible for booking the space in the UCC, were contacted shortly after the protestor appeared and asked the student to leave, Stanbridge said. "The concern was that it would disrupt the event or create a situation where tempers might flare."

Although the protestor refused to comment, his accompanying friend Hussein Hamdani, a first-year law student, spoke to members of the UPD and University Students' Council questioning their grounds for asking the protestor to leave. "I am not protesting anything – I heard that they had restricted someone from walking around," Hamdani said. "This person was doing nothing illegal – a paying member of the USC has the right to walk around the student centre."

The university does have a general rule on protests, explained USC general manager Jim Walden. Peaceful demonstration is permitted as long as it does not infringe on the rights or privileges of others, but the university can ask a protestor to leave or charge them with trespassing if they defy this policy, he explained.

Stanbridge added the protestor was allowed to carry the material and could hand it to anyone who approached him. "We agreed to allow the protestor to continue with his political statement as long as he did not act in a disruptive and disorderly manner," said UPD Inspt. Bob Earle.

Arye Berk, director of the JSU, said he thought the protest was in bad taste, especially in the presence of the children from a Hebrew school who participated in the event.

"Last year there was a person walking around in chains and the kids were traumatised," explained Michi Ishai, a teacher at the Jewish Community Hebrew day school. "This year we warned the kids about what they might see."

Berk said the JSU plans to launch a complaint with the USC race relations commissioner. "None of us have the right to distribute hate literature."

The protest was held during a sponsored USC event in a potentially confrontational nature – we could see how the organizers found it offensive, said USC President Ryan Parks.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998