Can an International Student/Scholar Attend a Protest or Demonstration?

Can an International Student/Scholar Attend a Protest or Demonstration?

As long as the activities are peaceful and are not posing any threat or harm to others, including property, then it is appropriate to participate.  It is most important that students/scholars remain safe.   However, should the tone of a protest change and begin to become threatening or violent in any way, including destruction of property, or continued participation could result in a violation of law that could result in arrest, then students/scholars should choose to end participation. If law enforcement officials give any instruction to end activities or leave the area, you should comply with those instructions.   

An arrest, even if criminal or civil charges are not filed or are dismissed, could impact an international student’s or scholar’s future interaction with immigration officials and could negatively impact your current or future immigration status and ability to enter or remain in the U.S.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also has guidance on this topic on their website:

If a student/scholar is arrested, it will be very important to consult with a criminal attorney to advise and support you during any court proceedings. While a court will assign an individual an attorney if they cannot afford one (known as a Public Defender), please note that not all attorneys are familiar with the impact on immigration status of an arrest or acceptance of certain plea decisions.

If you need to connect with an attorney in these situations, please contact the MIT International Students Office (ISO) or MIT International Scholars Office (ISchO) and we can provide a list of referral attorneys.
It will be likely that a consultation with both a criminal attorney and an immigration attorney (unless the criminal attorney has an immigration law background) may be necessary.

MIT Campus Policies

*MIT Statement on Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom

*MIT Guidelines for Fee Expression at Institute Events, Vigils, Protests, and Demonstrations

*MIT Policy for Bulletin Boards, Postering, and Display Spaces

With regards to gatherings related to the 2020 U.S. Elections, due to the health related considerations due to COVID-19, please also consult the MIT Guidelines for gatherings related to the November election posted on October 22, 2020.

Additional Resources

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
“Know Your Rights – Stopped by Police”
“Know Your Rights – What To Do When Encountering Questions from Law Enforcement”
“Know Your Rights – Enforcement at the Airport”