As racial justice activists continue their protests at North Dakota State University in response to how officials handled recent reports of students making racist posts on social media, the ACLU of North Dakota supports the protesters’ cause and is reminding people of their rights when it comes to protesting.
“What happened at NDSU is just another reminder that North Dakota is not immune to systemic racism,” said Dane DeKrey, advocacy director for the ACLU of North Dakota. “We know that people of color in North Dakota face systemic barriers to education, health care, employment and justice. As North Dakota becomes more diverse, racial justice can no longer be overlooked.”
While university officials have said they’ve dealt with the students involved in the situation, real change begins when the entire community is involved. That’s why the ACLU of North Dakota supports the efforts of the Fargo-Moorhead Black Lives Matter group to take their message to the streets.
“Real, lasting change is not just granted from our public officials,” DeKrey said. “Change is rooted in our neighborhoods, where the people who bear the burden of oppression and dehumanization nurture the belief that the world could be different and grow those beliefs into movements.”
The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly, after all, is critical to a functioning democracy and at the core of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, law enforcement officials sometime violate this right through means intended to thwart free public expression.
“Protests are a fundamental part of achieving human rights in a democratic society that has continuously thrived off the oppression of minority groups,” said Faith Shields-Dixon, a leader with Fargo-Moorhead Black Lives Matter. “Protest rights are human rights and must be upheld in order for true beneficial change to come to our country.”
To help educate people about their rights while protesting, the ACLU of North Dakota has print-on-demand flyers in English and Spanish on its website.
“The Constitution protects your right to peacefully assemble and protest, but doing so it isn’t without risk,” DeKrey said. “Standing up for your right to protest can be challenging, especially when demonstrations are sometimes met with the threat of violence. Knowing your rights and what actionable steps to take if you experience or witness police misconduct is important. If you are heading out to a protest, it is essential to remember your rights and to utilize them properly.”
Saturday’s protest will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday at university president Dean Bresciani's house on the NDSU campus.
About the ACLU of North Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of North Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes South Dakota and Wyoming. The team in North Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of North Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of North Dakota.