Media Contact

Aaron Welcher, Communications Director, ACLU of Utah

April 30, 2024

The ACLU of Utah urges campus administrators and law enforcement across the state to respect the First Amendment rights and safety of protestors. Protest is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy – a principle entrenched in our history, our First Amendment, and the Utah Constitution.  Utah colleges and universities must resist pressure to restrict or prohibit student protest – even on contentious issues – and adhere to their stated commitment to free speech, peaceful protest, and dissent on campus. If colleges and universities work with law enforcement to disperse protests and dismantle encampments constructed as part of demonstrations, we urge that they do so with great restraint. 

In many instances, especially in times of war, protests on campus can be loud, disruptive, and offensive to others. The role of a university is to help students navigate this situation, not to shut down protests.

Last night’s police response to the peaceful demonstration at the University of Utah risked the safety and well-being of those directly involved as well as those in the area. While authorities may enforce state laws and campus policies, we are gravely concerned that campuses and law enforcement nationwide are increasingly cracking down on political expression, rushing in police to arrest protestors, and authorizing aggressive treatment.

Such forceful clampdowns on protests severely affect free speech rights on every issue. In an election year when student protests are erupting nationwide, we call for more – not less- tolerance and respect for free speech, open debate, and peaceful dissent.

This statement can be found here.