Campus Protests: Statement by ACLU-SDIC Executive Director Norma Chávez-Peterson

In response to student-led protests at San Diego State University (SDSU), the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and other higher education institutions in our region, American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SDIC) Executive Director Norma Chávez-Peterson issued the following statement: 

“Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the freedom to peacefully protest without retribution are bedrock principles upon which our nation is built. These rights are enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution. The ACLU fights to protect these rights for everyone.  

“We believe the freedom to share diverse views and spark robust debate about political issues is essential to democracy and social progress — especially in times of national and global crisis. Our colleges and universities must be places where ideas are exchanged freely, and where debate and even dissent are encouraged. 

“Campus officials must take great care to distinguish between controversial speech and actual threats. They must also ensure that free speech principles are applied evenly, regardless of political viewpoint. In California, the Leonard Law extends First Amendment protections to students at private colleges and universities. 

“We urge our local colleges and universities to support students, faculty and staff engaged in peaceful protest and to refrain from deploying campus security or law enforcement to interfere with demonstrations or encampments, or otherwise censor their voices. 

“Since our founding, the ACLU-SDIC has been a champion of the First Amendment. We strongly oppose efforts to stifle free speech, free association and academic freedom. In partnership with the San Diego Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, we are monitoring local university and law enforcement responses closely to ensure people’s constitutional rights are protected.

“We encourage students and the public to understand their rights and to review school policies on demonstrations and protests. Complete our legal intake form or call us at 619-232-2121 (press 4 to request legal assistance) if you believe your rights have been violated.”