On November 30, 2022, New Mexico State Police dressed in riot gear used force to disperse students gathered outside the Student Union Building on the University of New Mexico (UNM) campus. The students were protesting a talk by Charlie Kirk, the CEO of Turning Point USA. Three student demonstrators were detained.
Students gathered at the Student Union Building around 5pm on November 30. New Mexico State Police arrived in riot gear later in the evening, after most had left, in an attempt to disperse the remaining, apparently, peaceful protesters. The police detained three people of color- an activist, a dental hygienist assistant, and a UNM law student, Diego Guerrerortiz. They were charged with disorderly conduct for failing to leave the area and were issued a criminal summons for interfering with officials, a petty misdemeanor that could mean a $500 fine and/or less than 6 months in jail.
Turning Point is a nonprofit group that aims to promote “freedom and limited government”, and has several chapters throughout the US on university campuses.
Scholars at Risk is concerned with the apparent use of force by riot police and arrest of students engaged in an allegedly peaceful protest. While state authorities have the right to implement reasonable laws and regulations to ensure order and protect students and staff, they must also exercise restraint and refrain from actions that may result in unnecessary harm. They have an obligation to refrain from restricting or retaliating against the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on campus. Universities have an obligation not to interfere with expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly, and should refrain from intimidatory actions that may chill the exercise of free expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of riot police and detentions to restrict peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)