Statement of the Executive Director of ACLU of Northern California Abdi Soltani on campus protests:

Abdi Soltani

The ACLU of Northern California is closely monitoring the campus protests and the university and law enforcement responses in our region, particularly at California Polytechnic Humboldt. I am here personally in Humboldt to monitor the student protests and campus response.

During times like these, several fundamental protections come to the forefront. First, there’s the right to freedom of expression and assembly enshrined in the United States and California Constitutions. Second, there’s the right to be free from unreasonable and excessive force at the hands of law enforcement. And third, there’s the core principle that these rights apply universally, irrespective of one’s viewpoint, race, ethnicity, or religion. These protections, however, only survive if we have other fundamental guarantees in place— a free press on the ground, access to legal counsel, and due process.  

We are closely monitoring the student protests and the responses of universities and law enforcement across Northern California. We are receiving and reviewing legal intakes from campuses across the region, including Stanford University and UC Berkeley. As a Berkeley resident, I visited the campus on Saturday to witness the encampment, speak with students, and assess the conditions.  It appears that the students there have been able to express themselves and that the University has, thus far, set aside spaces for such student expression.   

The developments at Cal Poly Humboldt have certainly also drawn our attention. The events at Humboldt are of greater concern, with students occupying a university building and encountering law enforcement. My goals while in Humboldt will be to observe events on campus, establish connections with students, faculty, and members of the public, and open lines of communication.

We urge the Cal Poly Humboldt administration, in the strongest terms, to refrain from involving law enforcement and to take advantage of every available tool to peacefully reach a resolution with the students.

Since its founding 90 years ago in 1934, the ACLU of Northern California has consistently prioritized defending the freedom of speech and the right to protest. During the Great Depression’s longshoreman strike to countless other periods of activism and protest by workers, students, peace activists, and others, we have remained steadfast in safeguarding robust First Amendment rights and the right under the California State Constitution to free expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. 

We encourage the public and students to review our Know Your Rights information, and to contact our Legal Intake line if you believe that your rights are being violated. We will post updates to social media over the coming days.