US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker, part of ICNL’s US Program, follows initiatives at the state and federal level since November 2016 that restrict the right to protest.

27 states have considered 49 bills 8 enacted 26 pending 15 defeated

No initiatives
Pending or defeated initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Nov. 21, 2017 (Arizona), Oct. 19, 2017 (Kentucky), Oct. 16, 2017 (Florida)
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US Federal

Executive Order 13809: Giving riot gear and other military equipment to local police

The “Presidential Executive Order on Restoring State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement's Access to Life-Saving Equipment and Resources” reinstates a program that transfers surplus military equipment to police departments across the country. President Obama had scaled back the 1990s-era program in 2015, following the heavily armed police response to protests against the killing of black men in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere. With Executive Order 13809, President Trump restored the program, and police departments will again receive free weaponized vehicles, certain large-caliber ammunition, riot gear, and other military equipment – which may once again be used when responding to protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 28 Aug 2017; Issued 28 Aug 2017

Issue(s): police response

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Arizona

HB 2007: Harsh penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would make it a felony to wear any kind of disguise at a protest. The prefiled bill broadly prohibits disguises, “whether partial or complete,” that an individual wears at a protest, political event, or any other public event in order “to evade or escape discovery, recognition or identification.” The bill allows for two exceptions when disguises are allowable: If worn for “a business-related purpose,” or if worn at a time or place “where a disguise may generally be viewed as part of acceptable attire.” Under the bill, police have authority to detain any individual wearing a disguise in order to verify his or her identity and determine if the person has committed a crime. Violation of the disguise ban is a Class 6 felony, subject to one year in prison. However, it is heightened to a Class 2 felony, subject to five years in prison, if the disguise “has direct or indirect involvement” in property damage or personal injury. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Nov 2017.

Issue(s): face coverings

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Arizona

SB 1142: Expanded definition of “riot”

Would have substantially broadened the definition of “riot,” from the reckless use or threat of force that disturbs the public peace, to such use or threat of force that either disturbs the public peace or causes property damage. Under the bill, organizers and protesters could be charged as conspirators, and bystanders could be held liable if they witness someone declare an intention to start a riot. The bill also adds “riot” to the list of offenses included under racketeering law, such that participating in or being near a riot could lead to prosecution on felony racketeering charges. The bill provides that prosecutors may seize a person's assets under civil forfeiture laws in addition to filing enhanced felony criminal charges. After the bill’s approval by the Arizona Senate on February 22, 2017, the House of Representatives rejected the bill. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 19 Jan 2017; Approved by Senate on 22 Feb 2017; House consideration denied 28 Feb 2017

Issue(s): conspiracy, riot

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Arkansas

AB 550: Criminalizing “unlawful mass picketing”

Would have introduced a new crime, “unlawful mass picketing.” Under the bill, picketing or demonstrating near a private establishment, business, or school would be illegal if it obstructs the entrance to a place of employment or blocks use of roads, railways, or airports. Commission of unlawful mass picketing would be a Class A misdemeanor, subject to up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 2 Mar 2017; Approved by Senate 13 March 2017; Approved by House 29 March 2017; Vetoed by Governor Hutchinson 6 April 2017

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Colorado

SB 17-035: Heightened penalties for protesting near oil and gas equipment

Would have substantially increased penalties for environmental protesters. Under the bill, obstructing or tampering with oil and gas equipment is reclassified from a misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. The bill’s language broadly includes anyone who “attempts to alter, obstruct, interrupt, or interfere with the action of any equipment used or associated with oil or gas gathering operations.” In addition to imposing much steeper penalties on anyone engaging in such activity, the bill also provides that oil and gas firms (or any other “victim” of tampering) may pursue separate claims against a protester who is also being prosecuted by the state. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 11 Jan 2017; Approved by Senate 28 March 2017; Failed in House committee 12 April 2017

Issue(s): infrastructure

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Florida

EXECUTIVE ORDER 17-264: Declaring a state of emergency ahead of Richard Spencer speech

Declares a state of emergency ahead of expected protests of a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Governor Scott’s order cites earlier protests and counter-protests triggered by Mr. Spencer at other universities, as well as requests from local law enforcement for additional resources to support expanded security measures ahead of Mr. Spencer’s speech. Among other things, the executive order activates the Florida National Guard, allows for the closure of affected government buildings and facilities, and authorizes a waiver of certain budget restrictions to fund the emergency response. The order establishes a state of emergency in Alachua County for seven days, until October 23, 2017. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 16 Oct 2017; Effective until 23 Oct 2017

Issue(s): state of emergency

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Florida

SB 1096/HB 1419: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would have criminalized the obstruction of traffic during an unpermitted protest or demonstration as a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine. The bill also eliminates civil liability for a driver who unintentionally injures or kills a protestor interfering with traffic during an unpermitted protest or demonstration. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 21 Feb 2017; Introduced 7 March 2017 in House; Failed in Senate committee 8 May 2017

Issue(s): driver immunity, traffic interference

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Georgia

SB 160: Heightened penalties for blocking traffic

As introduced and passed by the Georgia Senate, the “Back the Badge” bill included heightened penalties for intentionally or recklessly blocking “any highway, street, sidewalk, or other passage.” Accordingly, protesters and demonstrators peacefully obstructing a public sidewalk could have been charged with a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, which under Georgia law is subject to up to a $5,000 fine or up to one year in jail. These provisions were removed, however, in the version of the bill approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the Governor on April 10, 2017. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 10 Apr 2017; Approved by Senate 24 Feb 2017; Approved by House 24 March 2017 without protest provisions

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Georgia

SB 1: Expanding definition of “domestic terrorism”

Would have broadened the definition of “domestic terrorism” under Georgia law to potentially include demonstrations, boycotts, and other forms of protest and political expression. Under the bill, the previously high bar for committing domestic terrorism – harm caused to a group of 10 or more individuals – is lowered to include causing harm to at least one individual or disabling “critical infrastructure.” The new target, “critical infrastructure” is in turn very broadly defined to include “public or private systems, functions or assets, whether physical or virtual, vital to the security, governance, public health and safety, economy, or morale of this state or the United States.” The bill also introduces a new provision targeting actions that have a political or ideological component, such that domestic terrorism would include an action intended to advance “any ideology or belief,” whether held individually or as part of a group. Commission of domestic terrorism as defined by the bill would be a felony punishable by prison sentences ranging from five years to life. Given the broad language of the bill and extreme penalties involved, rights leaders feared that it was aimed to monitor, punish, and chill free speech activities including protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 10 Jan 2017; Approved by Senate 1 March 2017; Failed in House 28 March 2017

Issue(s): terrorism

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Illinois

HB 2939: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The bill requires public universities and community colleges to adopt a policy prohibiting and subjecting to sanction any “protests or demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity” on campus. Additionally, the bill requires administrators to suspend for at least one year or expel any student who is twice “found responsible for infringing on the expressive rights of others,” such as through a protest of a campus speaker. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Feb 2017.

Issue(s): campus speech

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Indiana

SB 285: Heightened police response to protests that block traffic

As introduced, the bill would have allowed law enforcement officials to use “any means necessary” to break up public assemblies that obstructed traffic. The bill defines “mass traffic obstruction” as an obstruction of street or highway traffic by at least 10 people as part or result of a protest, riot, or other assembly. It provides that public officials were obliged within 15 minutes of learning of a mass traffic obstruction to dispatch all available law enforcement with directions to “use any means necessary” to clear the roads of the persons obstructing traffic. After extensive committee amendments softening the bill, the Indiana Senate voted on February 27, 2017 effectively to vacate it and instead create a study committee to examine what constitutes a “reasonable response” to mass traffic obstruction. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 9 Jan 2017; Amended in committee 23 Feb 2017; Effectively vacated 27 Feb 2017

Issue(s): police response, traffic interference

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Iowa

SF 426: Heightened penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would prohibit persons from intentionally blocking traffic on Iowa highways with their bodies or any other obstruction. The bill, which sponsors say is designed to target protests that obstruct highway traffic, provides that individuals who do so are subject to graduated penalties. A second offense may be charged as an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in prison and up to $6,250 fine, while a third is to be charged as a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $7,500 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Mar 2017.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Kentucky

BR 275: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate all liability for drivers who injure or kill a protester who is blocking traffic. The pre-filed bill creates a new Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, for interfering with traffic on a public road during a protest for which a permit has not been granted. Under the bill, a motorist who injures or kills an individual who is interfering with traffic during such an event cannot be held criminally or civilly liable, unless the action was intentional. The bill also contains the provisions of BR 175 prohibiting the wearing of face coverings and bearing of weapons near a public protest. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 19 Oct 2017.

Issue(s): driver immunity, face coverings, weapons

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Kentucky

BR 175: Criminalizing face coverings and weapons near protests

Would create new penalties for wearing masks or protective gear, or carrying a weapon near a public protest. According to the prefiled bill, an individual within 500 feet of a protest may not wear a mask, hood, helmet, or other facade that “covers any portion of his or her face.” Likewise, individuals within 500 feet of a protest may not wear protective gear such as shields or armor, nor carry a deadly or dangerous weapon. Under the bill, commission of either act comprises “disruption of a public protest,” punishable as a Class A misdemeanor with up to twelve months in jail and a $500 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 24 Aug 2017.

Issue(s): face coverings, weapons

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Louisiana

HB 269: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would have created mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The bill prohibits “protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity” on college campuses. In addition, the bill requires public colleges to suspend for at least one year or expel any student found responsible for infringing the expressive rights of others, including by protesting. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 30 Mar 2017; Vetoed by Governor Edwards 27 June 2017

Issue(s): campus speech

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Massachusetts

HB 916: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would provide for harsh new penalties for individuals who impede traffic in the course of a protest or demonstration. The bill creates a broad offense of intentionally blocking, obstructing, impeding or otherwise interfering with the “normal and reasonable movement of vehicular or pedestrian traffic” on a public street or highway, punishable by up to $5,000 and a year in jail. Under the bill, police may arrest without a warrant any person they have probable cause to believe has unlawfully impeded traffic. The bill further makes any person convicted of unlawfully impeding traffic liable for the costs incurred by public and/or private emergency services in responding to the incident. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 30 Jun 2017.

Issue(s): security costs, traffic interference

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Michigan

SB 350: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The bill requires community and public colleges to prohibit and subject to sanction any “protests or demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity” on campus. The bill requires that college administrators suspend for at least one year or expel any student who is twice “found responsible for infringing on the expressive rights of others,” for instance through a protest or demonstration. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 May 2017.

Issue(s): campus speech

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Michigan

HB 4643: Heightened penalties for picketing and protesting

Would have dramatically increased penalties for picketing and protesting, and made it easier for a court to order that a demonstration cease. Under the bill, individuals who return to a disruptive demonstration already blocked by a court would face fines of up to $1,000 per day, with unions or other groups liable to up to $10,000 per day. The bill allows employers or others affected by mass picketing to bring an action against the demonstrators in local circuit court. It also lowers the threshold required for a court to order picketers and protesters to stop demonstrating. Under the bill, employers can obtain injunctive relief in some cases. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 29 Nov 2016; Failed in committee

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Minnesota

HF 1066/SF 918: Heightened penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would heighten penalties for any individual who “interferes with, obstructs, or renders dangerous for passage” any public highway or any right-of-way within airport property. According to the bill, such interference or obstruction is classified as a public nuisance and a gross misdemeanor, punishable by a $3,000 fine and one year of jail time. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Feb 2017.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Minnesota

HF 322/SF 679: Charging protesters for the cost of responding to a protest

Would allow the state to sue protesters and charge them for the costs of policing a public assembly. The bill gives state agencies, cities, and counties the authority to bring civil lawsuits against people convicted of unlawful assembly or public nuisance. The lawsuits could seek the full cost of responding to the unlawful assembly, including officer time, law enforcement helicopters, and administrative expenses. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2017.

Issue(s): security costs

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Minnesota

HF 390/SF 676: Heightened penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would increase penalties for protestors who intentionally obstruct highways or public roadway access to airports. Under the bill, the offense would be a gross misdemeanor rather than a misdemeanor, punishable by a $3,000 fine and one year in jail. Minnesota legislators have pledged to revisit the bill, sponsored by State Representative Nick Zerwas, early in the 2018 session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 23 Jan 2017.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Minnesota

HF 896/SF 803: Heightened penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would have increased penalties for protestors who intentionally obstruct highway or public roadway access to airports. Under the bill, such obstruction is classified as a gross misdemeanor rather than a misdemeanor. The bill, an omnibus public safety measure, incorporates language from two previously proposed bills aimed at heightening penalties on protesters. It would have allowed prosecutors to seek a $3,000 fine and one year of jail time for protesters intentionally blocking or interfering with traffic on a highway or public roadway within the boundaries of airport property. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 9 Feb 2017; Vetoed by Governor Dayton 15 May 2017

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Mississippi

SB 2730: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would have created the felony crime of “maliciously impeding traffic on a public road.” The obstructing of a public road or highway by a person “sitting, standing, or lying” would be punishable by a five-year prison sentence or a fine of up to $10,000, or both. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 16 Jan 2017; Failed in senate committee 31 Jan 2017

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Missouri

HB 826: Expanded definition for “unlawful assembly” and new penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would broadly define an “unlawful assembly” as two or more people who meet “for the purpose of violating any of the criminal laws” of Missouri or the U.S. The bill also creates a new crime of “unlawful traffic interference” that encompasses walking, sitting, standing, lying down, or placing an object on any public roadway with the intention of impeding traffic. The bill provides that commission of “unlawful traffic interference” while participating in an “unlawful assembly” is a Class D felony, which is subject to up to seven years in prison. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2017.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Missouri

HB 179: New penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would criminalize intentionally concealing one’s identity while participating in an “unlawful assembly” or rioting. Under the bill, a person who intentionally conceals his or her identity “by the means of a robe, mask, or other disguise” while engaged in an unlawful assembly could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. The bill exempts identity-concealing coverings for the purposes of religion, safety, or medical needs. The Missouri legislature’s website indicates that wearing a “hood” would also be included in criminalized coverings, although this language does not appear in the current wording of the bill. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Jan 2017.

Issue(s): face coverings

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North Carolina

HB 527/S507: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Creates mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The law requires universities and colleges to sanction any student who “substantially disrupts the functioning of the constituent institution or substantially interferes with the protected free expression rights of others, including protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in and listen to expressive activity.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 29 Mar 2017; Governor Cooper signed into law 29 June 2017

Issue(s): campus speech

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North Carolina

HB 330: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate civil liability for the driver of an automobile who hits or otherwise injures a person participating in a protest or demonstration, if the person was blocking traffic in a public street or highway and did not have a permit to do so, and if the driver was exercising “due care.” Civil liability is still available to the injured party if the driver acted intentionally. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Mar 2017; Approved by House 27 April

Issue(s): driver immunity

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North Carolina

SB 229: Heightened penalties for threats against former officials

Would substantially increase penalties for threats and assaults against former North Carolina officials on account of the official’s performance. The bill extends by one year the term of office of former executive, legislative, and court officials for the purpose of criminal provisions related to assaults and threats made against officials that are in office. Accordingly, threatening to inflict serious injury on a former official would be classified as a Class I felony – rather than a misdemeanor – for a period of one year after the official’s term in office. The offense would be subject to up to two years in prison. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Dan Bishop, who had pledged to introduce such legislation after an incident over Inauguration weekend in which protesters shouted at a former North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory, in Washington, D.C. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Mar 2017.

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North Carolina

HB 249: Criminalizing certain protests as “economic terrorism”

Would have targeted protests that obstruct roadways by newly criminalizing “economic terrorism,” defined as the willful or reckless commission of a criminal offense that impedes or disrupts the regular course of business and results in damages of over $1,000. Per the bill, commission of economic terrorism is a Class H felony, punishable by 4 to 25 months in prison. The bill also makes an individual participant civilly liable for the costs incurred by the state in responding to an unlawful assembly, riot, or obstruction of traffic (e.g., during a protest); the individual could be charged in a civil action for related legal, administrative, and court costs as well. Criminal penalties are heightened for individuals who obstruct traffic by standing, sitting, or lying in a street or highway, as well as for those who remain at the scene of a riot or unlawful assembly after being warned to disperse; under the bill, both are punishable by up to 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 2 Mar 2017; Failed in committee 25 April 2017

Issue(s): terrorism, traffic interference

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North Dakota

EXECUTIVE ORDER 2017-01: Mandatory evacuation of Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp

Orders the emergency evacuation of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp where opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline had been camped for several months. The order cites safety concerns as well as potential environmental damage due to “the presence of accumulated waste, abandoned vehicles and unlawful temporary and permanent dwelling structures in this flood-prone area” as grounds for the eviction. Under the order, all persons “occupying or residing in the evacuation area” had one week to leave. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 15 Feb 2017; Issued 15 Feb 2017

Issue(s): bans on specific protests

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North Dakota

HB 1426: Heightened penalties for riot offences

Increases the penalties imposed for riot offenses. Under the law, participation in a riot is a Class A rather than Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine. Engaging in a riot involving more than 100 people is made a Class B felony, subject to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 16 Jan 2017; Governor Burgum signed the law on 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): riot

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North Dakota

HB 1293: Expanded scope of criminal trespass

Expands the scope of criminal trespass activity under state law such that it could encompass protests, demonstrations, or other gatherings on private property, if notice against trespass is “clear from the circumstances.” The offense could be punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. The law also creates an additional, noncriminal trespass offense and allows officers to issue a citation with a $250 fine for trespassing. Governor Burgum signed the law on February 23, 2017. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 12 Jan 2017; Signed into law 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): trespass

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North Dakota

HB 1304: New penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Prohibits the wearing of masks, hoods, or other device that “conceals any portion” of an individual’s face while committing a criminal offense, in order to avoid recognition or identification. As drafted, the offense could encompass, e.g., individuals wearing hooded clothing while participating in a protest and also committing a minor offense such as jaywalking. Under the law, commission of the offense comprises a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 12 Jan 2017; Governor Burgum signed into law 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): face coverings

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North Dakota

HB 1203: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would have eliminated the liability of a motorist who causes “injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway,” as long as the motorist did so unintentionally. Under the bill, such a motorist would not be liable for any damages nor guilty of an offense. Accordingly, the bill would allow motorists to strike and even kill protesters without liability as long as the collision was negligent or accidental. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 16 Jan 2017; Failed in House on 13 Feb 2017

Issue(s): driver immunity, traffic interference

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Oklahoma

HB 1123: New penalties for protests near “critical infrastructure”

Targets protests around certain public facilities by creating a new criminal offense for trespass onto property containing “critical infrastructure.” The law’s extensive list of “critical infrastructure” facilities ranges from a petroleum refinery to a telephone pole. Willfully entering onto property containing critical infrastructure without permission is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000 or six month in jail, or both. Evidence of intent to damage or otherwise harm the operations of the infrastructure facility would make the offence a felony, punishable by at least $10,000 (with no maximum provided) or imprisonment for one year, or both; actual damage or vandalizing of the facility is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Organizations found to have “conspired” with perpetrators are liable for up to $1,000,000. The sponsor of the law told a House of Representatives committee that it was prompted by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Feb 2017; Governor Fallin signed into law 3 May 2017

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Oklahoma

HB 2128: Heightened penalties for protesters who trespass onto private property

Increases the potential penalties levied on individuals who protest on private property without permission. The law allows prosecutors to hold anyone arrested for or convicted of trespass liable for any damages to personal or real property caused while trespassing. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Feb 2017; Governor Fallin signed into law 15 May 2017

Issue(s): trespass

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Oregon

SB 540: Mandatory expulsion for college students convicted of rioting

Would require that public universities and community colleges expel a student who is convicted of participating in a riot. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Jan 2017.

Issue(s): campus speech, riot

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Pennsylvania

SB 754: Charging protesters for the costs of responding to a protest

Would make individual protesters potentially liable for “public safety response costs” incurred by the state or “political subdivision” during a protest or rally. The bill allows local authorities to seek restitution from protesters convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in the course of a protest or demonstration, in order to pay for the costs of responding to the event. Such costs could include overtime for police officers and emergency medical services, as well as “related legal, administrative, and court expenses.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 16 Aug 2017.

Issue(s): security costs

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Pennsylvania

SB 652: Heightened penalties for protests near “critical infrastructure”

Would heighten potential penalties for protests around “critical infrastructure” by providing for the crime of “criminal trespass.” Under the bill, it is a felony to trespass in a “critical infrastructure facility,” which is broadly defined to include natural gas facilities and pipelines as well as cell phone towers, telephone poles, and railroad tracks that are fenced off or posted as no-entry areas. The bill makes knowingly entering or trying to enter such an area a second-degree felony punishable by up to one year in prison and a minimum $5,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 25 Apr 2017.

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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Rhode Island

HB 5690: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate civil liability for the driver of an automobile who hits or otherwise injures a person participating in a protest or demonstration, if the protest or demonstration was blocking traffic and the driver was exercising “due care.” Civil liability remains if the driver’s actions were intentional. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Mar 2017.

Issue(s): driver immunity, traffic interference

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South Dakota

SB 176: Expanding governor’s power to restrict certain protests

Expands the governor’s authority to curtail protest activities on public lands and restricts protests that interfere with highway traffic. The law enables the governor and sheriff to prohibit gatherings of 20 or more people on public land, if the gathering might damage the land or interfere with the renter’s use of the land. The law enables South Dakota’s Department of Transportation to prohibit or otherwise restrict an individual or vehicle from stopping, standing, parking, or being present on any highway if it interferes with traffic. The law also expands the crime of trespass, providing that an individual who defies a posted order not to enter a zone where assembling has been prohibited would be guilty of criminal trespass. Obstructing traffic or committing criminal trespass are classified as Class 1 misdemeanors, punishable by one year in jail or a $2,000 fine, or both. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 3 Mar 2017; Governor Daugaard signed into law 14 March 2017

Issue(s): traffic interference, trespass

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Tennessee

SB 0902: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Imposes a new fine on any person who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly obstructs a public highway or street – including in the course of a protest – and in doing so interferes with an emergency vehicle’s access to or through the highway or street. “Emergency vehicle” is broadly defined as “any vehicle of a governmental department or public service corporation when responding to an emergency,” a police or fire department vehicle, or an ambulance. Unlawful obstruction of a street or highway was already a Class C misdemeanor subject to up to 30 days in jail; the law adds a $200 fine to the penalty. Sponsors made clear that the law was aimed at protests that obstructed highways. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 9 Feb 2017; Governor Haslam signed into law 12 April 2017

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Tennessee

HB 0668/SB 0944: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would have provided civil immunity for a motorist who injures a protester who was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way if the driver was exercising “due care.” The bill, introduced in both the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate, does not eliminate liability if the driver’s actions were “willful or wanton.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 9 Feb 2017; Failed in committee 22 March 2017

Issue(s): driver immunity, traffic interference

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Texas

HB 250: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate civil liability for the driver of an automobile who hits or otherwise injures a person who was participating in a protest or demonstration that blocked traffic, if the driver was exercising “due care.” The driver may still be civilly liable if his action was grossly negligent. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 20 Jul 2017.

Issue(s): driver immunity, traffic interference

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Virginia

Executive Order No. 67: Temporary ban on protests near General Lee monument

Temporarily bans protests at the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia. The order directs a suspension of all permits for demonstrations, processions, picketing, and “all other like forms of conduct,” as well as the display of any flags, banners, or other “demonstratives.” The order cites the violence that erupted during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017, and notes that activities surrounding Confederate monuments in Virginia including the Lee Monument “raise substantial public safety concerns.” The order mandates Virginia’s Department of General Services to issue regulations to govern any public use of the Lee Monument by November 18, 2017, and halts the issuance of demonstration permits until such regulations are issued. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 18 Aug 2017; Effective until 18 Nov 2017

Issue(s): bans on specific protests

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Virginia

Executive Order No. 66: State of emergency due to protests in Charlottesville

Declares a temporary state of emergency in Virginia “due to civil unrest leading up to, resulting from, and subsequent to the Unite the Right rally and counter-protests in the City of Charlottesville.” Among other things, the state of emergency activated the Virginia National Guard to assist in responding to the violence associated with the white nationalist demonstrations, and allowed state agencies to take extraordinary measures to deal with the emergency. Governor Terry McAuliffe signed the order on August 12, 2017, and declared the state of emergency to be in effect for five days, until August 17. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 12 Aug 2017; Effective until 17 Aug 2017

Issue(s): state of emergency

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Virginia

HB 1791: Expanded definition of “incitement to riot”

Would have expanded the definition of “incitement to riot” and heightened penalties for encouraging others to produce a riot against a law-enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical personnel. Under the bill, encouraging others to engage in a peaceful protest that results in acts of force or violence against such officers or personnel is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 9 Jan 2017; Approved by House 26 Jan 2017; Approved by Senate 13 Feb 2017; Vetoed by Governor McAuliffe 28 April 2017

Issue(s): riot

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Virginia

SB 1055: Heightened penalties for participation in an “unlawful assembly”

Would have broadened the scope of the state’s anti-protesting laws. The bill would increase penalties for people who engage in an “unlawful assembly” after “having been lawfully warned to disperse,” elevating the act from a Class 3 misdemeanor, which carries only a maximum $500 fine, to a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could be subject to up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated

Introduced 6 Jan 2017; Failed in Senate on 23 Jan 2017

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Washington

SB 5941: New penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would prohibit a person from “wearing a mask, hood, or device where any portion of the face is covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer” when they are on public or state-owned property – including, e.g., during a protest. Under the bill, commission of this offense is punishable as a gross misdemeanor. State Senator Jim Honeyford said he sponsored this bill in response to vandalism and violence that he believes occurs “under the guise of political speech,” that threatens citizens’ “safety and welfare.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 May 2017; reintroduced 21 June 2017

Issue(s): face coverings

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Washington

SB 5009: Heightened penalties for protests that block traffic and interfere with “economic activities”

Would target protests that disrupt roadways, railroads, and other “legally permitted economic activities.” The bill heightens penalties for illegal actions that aim to create economic harm by impeding legally-permitted economic activities. According to the bill, if a court finds that the perpetrator of another offense intended to cause economic disruption, his or her sentence can be extended 60 days for a misdemeanor, six months for a gross misdemeanor, and 12 months for a felony. The bill provides that those who fund or sponsor such actions can be charged as accomplices. The state senator who sponsored the bill indicated in November 2016 that it was drafted to respond to protests aimed at disrupting economic activities, which he deemed tantamount to “economic terrorism.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 15 Dec 2016; reintroduced 21 June 2017

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Wisconsin

AB 395/SB 303: Expanded definition of “riot”

Assembly Bill 395 would newly define “riot” under Wisconsin law and provide for heavy criminal penalties for participants in a riot. The bill broadly defines “riot” as a “public disturbance” that includes an act or threat of violence among an assembly of three or more people that “constitutes a clear and present danger” of damage to persons or property. Accordingly, under Bill 395, individuals in a gathering where a violent or destructive incident takes place could be charged with participation in a riot, classified as a Class I felony punishable by three and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 19 Jun 2017.

Issue(s): riot

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Wisconsin

AB 396/SB 304: New penalties for blocking traffic during a riot

Would create a new criminal offense of blocking a public or private thoroughfare or access to a private or public building during a riot (as defined and penalized in AB 395). Under the bill, such interference is a misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 19 Jun 2017.

Issue(s): riot, traffic interference

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Wisconsin

AB 397/SB 305: New penalties for carrying a weapon during a riot

Would impose new penalties for participation in a riot (as defined and penalized in AB 395) while carrying a dangerous weapon. Doing so is classified as a Class G felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 19 Jun 2017.

Issue(s): riot, weapons

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Wisconsin

AB 299: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would impose mandatory disciplinary measures on student protesters in certain cases. The bill requires that students who engage in “violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, obscene, unreasonably loud, or other disorderly conduct that interferes with the free expression of others” on Wisconsin college or university campuses be compelled to attend a mandatory disciplinary hearing. The bill also requires campus authorities to suspend for a minimum of one semester or expel a student who interferes more than once with another’s free speech, for instance by protesting a controversial campus speaker. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 5 May 2017; Approved by Assembly 21 June 2017

Issue(s): campus speech

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For more information about the Tracker, contact Elly Page at EPage@icnl.org.