Universities aim to provide students with research and critical thinking skills. They want to encourage young adults to become active in their communities and to take a role in shaping the future. Regardless of someone’s major, a student at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) will hopefully learn about how to evaluate sources of information and about their civil rights as their educational opportunities evolve.
One of the most important ways for young adults and others concerned about world affairs to involve themselves is through public protest. Large gatherings of like-minded individuals can call attention to issues that people might otherwise ignore. In some cases, they can influence the policy positions of local politicians. Recently, there have been protests across the country related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict currently occurring overseas. What do students at UT Austin need to know about their rights regarding peaceful protest in this regard?
There are rules for organizing protests
In theory, individuals have the right to peaceably gather when appropriate to discuss matters with one another and make their views known. Anyone can put together a protest without official permission from local authorities. Small protests that take place on sidewalks, for example, generally do not require permits. However, if protesters intend to march in the street or use sound amplification equipment, they will likely need permits from municipal authorities or the university. Private property owners can also refuse to allow protesters onto their property.
There are rules during protests as well
Those organizing a protest usually need to ensure that participants remain peaceful and abide by police instructions if law enforcement officers arrive to help keep the peace. Protesters need to remember that counter-protesters also have the right of free speech. It is never permissible to engage in acts of violence, which would include physically attacking or restraining someone. Even ripping a sign out of someone’s hands could potentially lead to criminal charges.
Students protesting political issues have the right to assemble and the right to free speech. However, they must abide by the law while expressing themselves and organizing. Understanding how civil rights affect public protests may benefit those intending to attend an event related to the conflict currently occurring overseas and the role of the United States government in that conflict.