Media Contact

ACLU SoCal Communications and Media Advocacy,, 213-977-5252

May 1, 2024

Open letter to UCLA chancellor cautions against clearing encampment.

LOS ANGELES – In response to acts of mob violence on UCLA’s campus last night, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California sent a letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block denouncing efforts to suppress the peaceful right to free expression and dissent. 

Authored by ACLU SoCal Chief Counsel/Director of First Amendment and Democracy Peter Eliasberg and Senior Staff Attorney Mohammad Tajsar, the letter states: “Last night’s violence was intended to intimidate and silence protesters. The University should not contribute to those efforts any more than it already has.”

According to news reports, a group of at least 100 people armed with fireworks, bear spray, and handmade weapons descended on the UCLA students’ Gaza solidarity encampment last night and assaulted many of the protesters. 

"These people were not counter-protesters exercising their First Amendment rights," the letter explains, "they were committing acts of violence that are completely unprotected by the First Amendment.”

The letter further makes plain the role of the university in civic life, saying, “Our history shows that institutions of higher learning have served as critical spaces to contest ideas, critique mainstream orthodoxies, and encourage dissenting voices. Indeed, one of the key functions of free speech is ‘to invite dispute,’ a characteristic of freedom that is perhaps best expressed at a university setting.”

The letter urges Chancellor Block “to take all necessary measures to protect students’ right to protest, even and especially when that right is under violent assault, and to refrain from taking any further measures to suppress student protest on campus,” regardless of their views. 

Read the letter: