NEW ORLEANS—The ACLU of Louisiana has released the following statement in response to several protests and demonstrations that have taken place on New Orleans college campuses and across the city.

“Institutions of higher learning have long been and must continue to be environments that encourage openness and the free exchange of ideas.

Even when the ideas of some community members are disagreeable to others, it is the responsibility of our colleges and universities to safeguard the First Amendment rights of all to assemble and express their views peacefully and safely. Schools have a responsibility to keep students protected from violence and discrimination, as well as from censorship.

Whether demonstrators are present on a college campus or in Jackson Square, the freedoms of speech and assembly are indisputable and protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The rights of all Louisianians to peacefully protest without threat of violence must be protected, whether those involved be lifelong residents or university students that have recently made Louisiana their home.

The history of violence between law enforcement and marginalized communities, especially communities of color, cannot and should not be ignored. We must also be cognizant of the current political environment in Louisiana and the implications for a chilling effect on free speech. There are several active pieces of legislation that seek to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of the people of Louisiana. Legislation such as House Bills 127 and 205 heighten the criminal prosecution of protest-related activities.

To that end, the ACLU of Louisiana calls for First Amendment rights to be upheld and for university and government leaders to create environments that safeguard constitutionally protected speech.

We condemn the use of state-sanctioned violence against peaceful protestors, regardless of their viewpoint.

Colleges and universities must also resist agenda-driven pressure from elected officials to dispel student protests, especially when issues are globally contentious. They must remain firm in their commitment to rights of free speech, open debate, and peaceful dissent that everyone—including their students, alumni, staff, and faculty— are entitled to.

We also strongly encourage students to obtain and review their schools’ policies regarding demonstrations and protests, and to otherwise know their rights.

For questions regarding students' rights on public and private college campuses, go to: