April 30, 2024

Colleges across the county are attempting to suppress pro-Palestinian activism. Students on campuses are being subjected to harassment, doxxing, censorship, and arrests, as well as retaliation from their schools as we have seen with the recent violent crackdown on students protests at the University of Southern California.

In a time of such blatant atrocities being committed in Gaza, it is more important than ever that people speak out against injustice. CAIR-LA stands in solidarity with student activists on all our college and university campuses. We want to remind students to stay safe by knowing their rights while protesting on campus.

*This serves as a guide for students and does not constitute legal advice. If you need more direct assistance, please contact CAIR-LA’s Civil Rights Department.

First Amendment on College Campuses

The First Amendment protects the rights of students at public colleges and universities to express their opinions, even if others disagree with the views expressed or the form of expression, including spoken and written words, symbolic clothing, sit-ins, and passing out flyers—as long as there is no disruption or violation of the school’s content-neutral policies. Schools cannot enforce their policies more strictly on protests or speech they disagree with.

The Supreme Court has held that school authorities must respect students’ rights to express themselves outside of school, including their right to express dissenting or unpopular views.

While the First Amendment does not explicitly apply to private schools, California law has extended some protections of the First Amendment to our state’s private colleges and universities.

Staying Safe During Protests

Counter-protesters may try to provoke you—do not engage with them. Be wary of “rogue provocateurs” who may try to infiltrate peaceful protests and instigate violence or unlawful behavior. Avoid posting personal identifying information of fellow protesters in online posts.

What To Do if Your School Calls Law Enforcement

  • You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Generally, law enforcement may ask you to show student identification to verify you are a student. Law enforcement may also ask for identification if you are arrested or booked.
  • You can ask if you are free to leave and can leave if the officer says yes.
  • You have the right to have a lawyer present when speaking with law enforcement. Assert your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney!
  • Do not resist arrest.

What To Do if You Are Arrested

If you are arrested, assert your right to an attorney and your right to stay silent. Only discuss the details of your case with your legal representativediscussions with family or friends can be used as evidence against you. Don’t discuss details of your case over the phone as it could be monitored and used against you.

Police Detention of Students

CAIR-LA is coordination with criminal defense attorneys to ensure legal representation for students who have been arrested and for them to understand the legal process.

If you have been arrested or believe your rights have been violated on campus, contact CAIR-LA’s Civil Rights department at (714) 776-1177 or click here.