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What you need to know about protesting on campus

Planning to participate in a campus protest? Before you do, be clear on your rights AND responsibilities.

Planning to participate in a campus protest? Before you do, you need to know your rights and responsibilities.

Most of the protests have been peaceful but others have been considered disruptions by universities and even isolated acts of violence.

It's important to distinguish between what is protected under the First Amendment and what is not.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression has some helpful guidelines about what you can and can't do at a campus protest.

First off, you have the right to peacefully assemble and express your opinions on campus. This includes holding signs, chanting slogans, and distributing literature. 

That’s regardless of your message.

Your college shouldn’t punish you or your group more harshly than other groups in similar circumstances because administrators find your message upsetting, offensive or divisive. 

However, there are limits to what you are allowed to do during a protest.

You can't disrupt classes, block entrances or exits to buildings, or prevent others from entering or leaving campus facilities.

And you can't engage in violence, destruction of property, or harassment of others.

This may all sound like common sense, but you can get arrested if you don’t follow the university's rules - or local and state laws. 

And remember there are other ways to get your point across. Why not try engaging in a civil dialogue with other students who may not agree with you. 

Conversations with the other side to bridge the divide could help identify areas of common ground, while easing tensions on campus.

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