Demonstrations and Protests

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What do we know about demonstrations, protests and student activism?

UC Santa Cruz is committed to assuring that all persons may exercise the constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech and assembly. The ongoing opportunity for the expression of a variety of viewpoints is at the core of this commitment.  As campus citizens, it is imperative that we live up to the responsibilities that accompany these rights. Refer to the links referenced below for detailed information on rights, responsibilities and the campus time, place and manner policies.

What is the Demonstrations Operations Team (DOT)?

The Demonstration Operations Team (DOT) is an administrative team charged by the EVC/Campus Provost office with coordinating the campus’ specific operational planning and response needs related to campus activism including demonstrations, labor relations activities, strikes and other large public events that require campus response, coordination and management. The team is coordinated by the associate vice chancellor for Risk and Safety Services.

The three overarching outcome goals for DOT planning efforts include:

  • Analysis and planning to support the safety needs of the campus community.
  • Considerations and actions to support participant First Amendment rights to freedom of expression, open dialogue and discord.
  • Supporting the academic mission of the university.

Who is responsible when a demonstration event or disruption comes into a building or area of campus? 

  • University Police are responsible for public safety and emergency response. 
  • Demonstration Operations Staff will be on-site to support a variety of people, including staff in the area, the demonstration leaders, University Police, etc. They will also reach out to the demonstration leaders, provide policy information and work to address issues related to First Amendment rights and the rights of others.  
  • Transportation and Parking Services coordinates with transit services, including Metro, and if needed, will re-route transportation, traffic and parking. 
  • Faculty are responsible for managing their classrooms and research labs, including decisions to evacuate a classroom or lab and implementation of all related business continuity actions.    
  • Managers and supervisors have the responsibility for providing direction to staff including operational decision-making.  In the event of a building occupation, they are responsible for insuring that staff have been instructed to leave the building and for the implementation of all related business continuity actions.

What can I do to prepare myself and staff in the event of a demonstration?

  • Classrooms: Classroom disruption.
  • Public Access Areas:  As a public university, we are required to maintain public access hours per standard practice.  The campus does not “lock down” public access areas in advance of demonstration activities.  Closing a public access area during public access hours is a decision that should be made in consultation with the Police.  Managers are discouraged from restricting access to public buildings as a precaution.
  • Non-Public Access Areas: may be secured as a precaution or during a demonstration event.  Non-public areas including those areas such as private offices, secured research labs, areas that have limited hours, office suites, etc.   Please take care to make sure doors close behind you to prevent "tailgating". If you and/or your guests are in a non-public access area, please see your guests out if there is an exit point or ask that they wait until the situation changes.
  • Public Access Area Review:  Managers who wish to review the specific public versus/non-public areas in their building may request a review by University Police.
  • Windows:  Should be secured and remain secured. Where appropriate, blinds may be closed for privacy.
  • “Clean Desk”: Working with a "clean desk" is a good business practice: minimize sensitive material on desks, lock drawers with sensitive material, "lock" computer screen if you walk away from your computer (Windows key + letter L) (Mac computer you have to put the computer in “sleep” mode and have your settings set to “Require password after sleep or screen saver.")
  • Elevators:  When evacuating a building due to a demonstration event, it is best to use the closest stairwell and transit down stairs.  If you need to use the elevator due to an accommodation, ask someone to transit with you and if for any reason you need assistance, contact campus dispatch at 459-2231.

What should I do in a situation of imminent danger?

  • Contact University Police at 9-1-1.

What should I do if there is a building occupation?

  • ​In the event of a building occupation, for safety purposes, employees are expected to leave the building and to the degree possible, secure office areas behind them.
  • Employees should meet in the designated Evacuation Area (be familiar with location)
  • Employees should check in with supervisors or the manager who is at the Evacuation Area for further instruction.  
  • Upon exiting your work area, and if possible, employees should take care to:
    • Secure confidential and sensitive information
    • Secure laptops or take them with you
    • Take other personal items you need with you

What resource materials, information and training are available?

The campus Police Department and Office of Emergency Services have multiple resources available on their websites. Both departments provide in person training sessions on a variety of topics.

How to Plan for Speaking Engagement Disruptions

​If you anticipate that your event may experience protest activity, prior to the event, hold a planning meeting with your event team.  Event managers and staff should discuss concerns, talk through scenarios and develop a response plan. Assign roles, responsibilities, and escalation thresholds.  Share the developed plan with guest speakers and let them know they are supported.

Checklist for Speaker Support

  • Determine if disruption or protest is possible or likely. Is the topic or activity controversial? Have social media feeds suggested opposition?
  • Review UCSC’s Major Events Policy.  Follow policy guidelines for notification to supporting units. 
  • Establish roles and responsibilities
    • Door monitor
    • Audience monitor
    • Speaker support
    • Call police
  • Establish a signal for escalated response and support
  • If a disrupter or demonstration overwhelms the event or the speaker, the event manager should assume the podium and cancel the event.


Speaker Tips

Tips for handling a challenger, a heckler a disrupter, or a group protest.

Manage your own emotional state and thoughts.

The heckler or disrupter’s actions may seem rude and abrasive.  Manage your interpretation and judgement of that behavior so that it does not come out in your response.

Allow the disrupter(s) to speak

Give some space for the disrupter(s) to share their point. This may feel uncomfortable to you and your audience, but this is the most effective method of preventative to continued disruption.

Reflect on their Comments before responding

Prepare in your mind a response that restates their message back to them. 


If appropriate, respond to their message, directing your response at the audience as a whole.  At the end of your reply, do not look in the direction of the disrupter, or the exchange may continue.  Look away and smoothly, segue back into your presentation.

Subsequent interruptions

If the disrupter continues and prohibits the facilitation of your presentation, send the agreed upon signal to the event planners.

Observe and respond

Acknowledge what is occurring and, devoid of judgement, in a neutral tone respond to the disrupter, “you have made your points. I would now like to finish my presentation.”


Politely request, “could you please hold your comments so that I may continue?”

Last resort

If disruptions continue, ask the audience if they would prefer to hear your presentation or to hear the disrupter speak.  The audience will likely want to hear your presentation.


If the disrupter relentlessly continues, advise the audience that the presentation will have to end.  

Emergency Preparedness, Training Resources and Contacts:

Ready Slug Videos

Policy Information:

Student Policies & Regulations Handbook:

Free Speech Statement:

Free Speech–Time, Place & Manner:

Know Your Rights:\\

UCSC Principles of Community:

Campus Strike Plan:

UCSC Labor Strike Plan 2016