Participation in Protests – Things to Consider

Over the last month and a half it seems every time you turn on the television or check the internet there are reports from another protest march. Masses of people have been taking to the streets to let their opinions be known about the new president (both in opposition and in support of him), the recent immigration travel ban, abortion services, the building of oil pipelines, and even national healthcare policy. Protests have been occurring all over the country, including here in St. Louis.

Participation in protests may appeal to students, including international students, particularly if they agree with the goals of the protest movement. Students may even see the protests as a way to experience the American political process firsthand. In our view, however, the decision to participate in public protests must not be taken lightly. In order to participate, one must accept the possibility of being arrested and the consequences that can come along with that.

For the most part these protests have complied with local laws and ordinances, and few protesters have been arrested. However, there have been times where opposing groups have clashed, or some members of the public have used the protests as an excuse to cause mayhem and damage property. Such situations increase the chances of even peaceful protesters being arrested when law enforcement intervenes.

Being arrested can have strong consequences even for American students. However, international students face an even greater level of risk, as an arrest record can cause long term immigration consequences, including the loss of immigration status and even deportation, depending on the circumstances.

OISS does not encourage or discourage student involvement in protests or students’ exercise of their freedom of speech. However, we do want to inform our students of the real, potential risks involved in such activities. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if you should get involved with protests or any other political activities.

For questions on visa regulations and the consequences of arrest, consult an International Student Advisor during walk-in hours (Monday-Thursday, 1:30-3:30) or contact us directly at or 314-935-5910.


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