Freedom of Assembly | The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Freedom of Assembly

What We Defend

Freedom of assembly is the right of individuals to come together to express shared ideas, and it is one of the rights expressly guaranteed by the First Amendment. This includes the right to peaceably protest and to gather, and it also extends to the right to associate — essential guarantees for ideas to flow freely. 

These freedoms have allowed students to organize to express popular and unpopular ideas alike, and have enabled the development of on-campus protest movements, like the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, through which students and the public come together in support of various political and religious causes. 

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FAQ for Student Protests on Campus

Planning a campus protest — or already part of one? To help get to know your rights, here are some answers to questions we’ve seen come up time and again in over a decade and a half of defending students’ right to free speech and free assembly.

Know Your Rights

Greg Lukianoff - FIRE
An informed populace is essential to our democracy, and colleges and universities should be welcoming a debate on the role of guns in our society, not stifling it. — FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff

Protest Canceled

Student Story

Tarrant County College (TCC) repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of student protesters who intended to participate in the national “Students for Concealed Carry on Campus” protest by wearing empty holsters. Two years in a row, TCC students were told that they could not wear the holsters anywhere on campus and had to confine all protests to tiny “free speech zones.”

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Do’s and Don’ts of Campus Activism

Planning on engaging in activism on campus? Check out the following tips before gearing up.

Know Your Rights

Protesters holding American flag

FIRE’s 2020 statement on campus censorship during nationwide protests

As a nonpartisan civil liberties organization committed to defending the civil liberties of college students and faculty members, FIRE is here to hold colleges accountable to their moral and constitutional obligations.

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Protesters holding American flag

Freedom of Assembly Resources

For teachers leading courses on peaceful protests and freedom of assembly, FIRE provides source material that can make a positive addition to any course syllabus or serve as a valuable teaching and study aid.

FIRE Student Survey

In 2018, FIRE surveyed 2,225 college students about their attitudes toward issues relating to free association, free expression, and student fees on campus. The results of the survey show that almost all students think it is important that their civil rights or liberties are protected and that students more strongly support the rights of some groups to protest peacefully than others.

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Survey data

Defending Your Rights

FIRE defends the rights of students and faculty through several core services.