Media Contact

David Gwidt, ACLU of Wisconsin Deputy Communications Director,

April 29, 2024

MILWAUKEE – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin released a statement ahead of protests planned at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Madison this week.

ACLU of WI Executive Director Dr. Melinda Q. Brennan said: 

“Over the last several weeks, thousands of college students from across the country have taken to the streets to engage in protected political speech. Rather than safeguard their students’ right to peacefully assemble, many colleges and universities have responded to these protests with overwhelming force, quickly calling on police to break up lawful protests while using other intimidation tactics to chill dissent. As a result, students, faculty, and staff have been tear-gassed, pepper sprayed, shot with rubber bullets, arrested en masse, and subjected to police abuse.

As anti-war protests spread to campuses in Wisconsin, university administrators are left with a choice – one that will determine which side of history they will be on. They can stay true to the Wisconsin Idea – the founding principle of our state university system – which holds that college campuses must serve as incubators for self-discovery and empower students to critically examine, understand, and interact with the world around them. Or they can, regrettably, decide to follow the path of other universities that have succumbed to political pressure, betraying and punishing their students, faculty, and staff for peacefully exercising their right to dissent. 

In Wisconsin, where we believe education is a public good and builds up our communities, our futures, and the next generation of leaders, we cannot betray our history as leaders and defenders of learning. Freedom of speech and peaceful assembly must not be undermined in places of learning and discovery. The next few hours, days, and weeks will reveal whether the Wisconsin Idea still lives and if free speech and First Amendment protections for all of us are valued.”