The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

University of Illinois Relocates Demonstration [UPDATE: Demonstrators Return, University Threatens Arrest and Suspension]


UPDATE 4/29/2024, 12:05 am: Here's an item circulated Sunday evening:

We write this evening to let the campus community know that demonstration activity began on the south end of the Main Quad several hours ago. This is a resumption of Friday's activities. The demonstrators were again informed of the policies and rules for activities in this area. Members of the group began setting up tents and other structures that are in violation of the rules and policies as explained to them. They have been told that violations of our rules or of state or local laws are subject to consequences including arrest, and for university students, interim suspension.

President Killeen and I offered to meet directly with representatives of the group this evening to discuss their questions and concerns if they would remove the tents and structures. This offer was refused.

We respect the rights of freedom of speech and expression and remain committed to providing a safe environment for all members of our community. Demonstrators in compliance with university policies are allowed to remain in public space as long as they continue to abide by university policies and state and federal laws. These measures are in place to maintain the physical safety of our campus and so that all campus community members can continue to benefit from the academic experience we are here to provide.

University classes and activities are expected to continue as usual tomorrow.


From a Friday statement by the university president:

We write to ask all students, staff and faculty to avoid the area near Wright and Green Streets in front of the Illini Union until further notice. This area has been the site of a demonstration that began early this morning and that has included unlawful and impermissible conduct by some. Despite our continued efforts throughout the day to ensure those who were participating were fully informed of the policies and rules that they needed to follow to continue their activities, the participants refused to adhere to them.

This afternoon, when university police officers attempted to escort university staff into the area to remove the encampment structures violating university policy, members of the demonstrating group prevented their entry and physically resisted. This included use of pieces of lumber as well as other physical tools and objects to push the officers back. Our officers made the decision to deescalate the situation and stepped back to reduce the risk of injury to themselves or the demonstrators.

This situation has escalated beyond a peaceful expression of opinion. Those who do not comply with our orders to leave will be subject to consequences, including arrest, when criminal laws are violated, and the possibility of immediate interim suspension for students.

We will continue to work to convince the demonstrators to end their activities and disperse voluntarily, and we hope they make that choice.

We have worked very hard over the past months to allow all of those in our community to gather in our public spaces and express themselves freely and safely. Our entire community is feeling grief, empathy and compassion at the enormous loss of innocent lives that we've all seen.

Our community is not responsible for the progression of this conflict, and we do not have the power to end this devastating war no matter how much we wish we could. We are focused right now on what we can do to keep our entire campus and community as safe as possible in a difficult time.

We are asking now for your help in doing so by staying clear of this area.

And from the president's statement three and a half hours later:

I write to tell you that we have reached a peaceful resolution that has ended the demonstration outside of the Illini Union.

The demonstration participants will immediately dismantle their encampment and leave this location. We have agreed to allow them to temporarily relocate their activities to the public access green space west of Gregory Avenue and north of Oregon Street. We reached this compromise to avoid a physical confrontation that would endanger demonstrators and our police officers alike. This presence will be permitted through the conclusion of  a meeting with some event organizers that was already scheduled for Monday afternoon.

This location will limit the disruptions to campus operations. The demonstrators will restrict their activities to a strictly defined area. We also will be able to maintain a wider area of separation between the demonstrators and our academic operations on Monday.

We are trusting the participants to honor their agreement with us in the interest of public safety. We have reached a very clear understanding with the participants that we will take immediate action to disperse the group if their activities present any new safety risks or violations of state or local law.

I understand that this resolution will likely frustrate members of our community who have strong opinions on both sides of this issue. I made this decision after careful and lengthy consultation with our police department, the university administration and local authorities. I believe this path offered us the safest way forward for all involved with the least continuing disruption to our students, faculty and staff as they prepare for their final week of the semester.

Thanks to Joe Lehman for the pointer; see also this article from WCIA (Bradley Zimmerman & Heather Robinson).