The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities deployed university police this week to arrest nine pro-Palestine demonstrators. Hundreds of students staged a walkout in response to the arrests. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has this statement from Executive Director Deepinder Mayell:  

“Robust debate and a fierce desire to engage with global events have long been at the center of academic life in America’s public universities. This free exchange of ideas is so important, it is a fundamental principle of any healthy democracy. 

“Students and faculty at public universities who express political opinions, criticize foreign governments, or speak out in favor of any cause or movement have a First Amendment right to express themselves.  

“They have the right to organize, to attend protests and to coordinate boycotts in school – as long as they don’t violate the school’s narrowly tailored time, place, and manner rules. And a school disagreeing with a student’s position or thinking a student’s speech is controversial is not enough.   

“At the same time, across the nation, accounts of rising antisemitic and Islamophobic sentiment are deeply disturbing. All students deserve to be safe and to learn free from discrimination based on religion, race, and ethnicity. Threats and violence remain illegal and must be rejected. 

“But it is precisely in times of heightened crisis and fear that university leaders must remain steadfast in their commitment to free speech. They must carefully distinguish between controversial speech and actual threats. They must ensure that free speech principles are applied evenly, regardless of political viewpoint. 

“The University of Minnesota is one of many schools facing such a moment, and we urge university leaders and police to use restraint in interfering with student protests and encampments.  

“We challenge universities to be brave enough to let peaceful speech stay free and to respect academic freedom, even when it’s hard.”