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. For information about our methodology, click here.

35 states have
considered
100 bills
16 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
13 pending 69 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Jul. 15, 2019 (Missouri), Jun. 17, 2019 (Texas), Jun. 4, 2019 (North Carolina, US Federal)
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Indiana

SB 471: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Heightens the potential penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure by creating the offenses of "criminal infrastructure facility trespass" and "critical infrastructure facility mischief." The law provides that an individual who knowingly enters a critical infrastructure facility without permission commits critical infrastructure facility trespass, a Level 6 felony punishable by up to 30 months in prison. Under the law, recklessly or knowingly defacing such a facility constitutes critical infrastructure facility mischief, punishable by up to six years in prison as a Level 5 felony. In either case, the individual may additionally be liable to the property owner for damages, costs, and attorney's fees. An individual found to have conspired with someone who commits either offense may also be liable for a fine of $100,000. The law newly defines “critical infrastructure facility” under Indiana law to include a range of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities, as well as any “facility that is substantially similar” to one of the listed facilities. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 14 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 7 Feb 2019; Approved by House 25 March 2019; Signed by Governor Holcomb on 6 May 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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Louisiana

HB 727: Heightened penalties for protesting near a pipeline

Targets protests around gas and oil pipelines by expanding the definition of “critical infrastructure” and providing for the offense of "unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure." Under the law, "critical infrastructure" is amended to include "pipelines," "any site where the construction or improvement of [pipelines or any other listed infrastructure facility] is taking place," as well as "all structures, equipment, or other immovable or movable property located within or upon" such facilities. Unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure property as defined above is punishable by imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to five years and a fine of $1,000. As originally introduced, the law included a new crime of “conspiracy to engage in unauthorized entry” of a critical infrastructure facility, punishable by imprisonment with or without hard labor for up to five years and a fine of $10,000, such that individuals who only planned to hold a peaceful protest on infrastructure property could be prosecuted. The amended and enacted version of the bill removed the provisions on conspiracy, however. In addition, prior to the law’s enactment, provisions were added to mandate that the law would not apply to "[l]awful assembly and peaceful and orderly petition, picketing, or demonstration for the redress of grievances or to express ideas or views regarding legitimate matters of public interest." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 26 Mar 2018; Approved by House 12 April 2018; Approved by the Senate 8 May 2018; Signed into law by Governor Edwards 30 May 2018

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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Missouri

HB 355: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create new potential penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure." The bill--which was substituted by a Missouri Senate committee for a House bill on sentencing guidelines--would heighten the penalties for trespass occuring on critical infrastructure property. Trespass with intent "to damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, [or] tamper with” a facility or intent to “impede or inhibit the operations” of a facility would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Protesters seeking to peacefully demonstrate against construction of a new pipeline, for instance, with the intent to disrupt that construction, could be prosecuted under the bill. The bill would also newly criminalize "damage" to critical infrastructure, broadly defined to include vandalism, and make it a Class C felony, punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The bill would also newly and broadly define "critical infrastructure" to include oil and gas pipelines, refineries, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks—whether operational or under construction. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 18 Apr 2019; Approved by Senate as amended 17 May 2019; Approved by House 17 May 2019; Signed by Governor Parson on 11 July 2019

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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Missouri

HB 1413: Limiting public employees' ability to picket

Bars certain public employees from picketing. The law requires that all labor agreements negotiated between a "public body" and a labor organization "shall expressly prohibit all strikes and picketing of any kind." The law further mandates that such agreements provide for the "immediate termination" of "any public employee who...pickets over any personnel matter." "Public body" is broadly defined in the law to include "the state of Missouri, or any officer, agency, department, bureau, division, board or commission of the state, or any other political subdivision or special district of or within the state"; accordingly, the law may apply to many labor agreements. While "picketing" is not defined under the law, Missouri Code elsewhere refers to "picketing or other organized protests" as "constitutionally protected activity," indicating that picketing as used in HB 1413 includes protests and demonstrations unrelated to labor strikes. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 3 Jan 2018; Approved by House 12 February 2018; approved by Senate 16 May 2018; Signed by Governor Greitens 1 June 2018

Issue(s): strikes

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North Dakota

SB 2044: Heightened penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Enhances potential penalties for individuals who protest near existing and planned gas and oil pipelines by criminalizing acts that interrupt or interfere with critical infrastructure facilities. In addition to prohibiting actual tampering with critical infrastructure property and equipment, the law prohibits “interfering, inhibiting, impeding, or preventing the construction or repair” of a critical infrastructure facility. Further, the law expands the definition of “critical infrastructure facility” to include a “site or location designated or approved for the construction of a facility” such as an oil or gas pipeline. Intentional interruption of a critical infrastructure facility, including by interfering with pipeline construction, is a Class C felony under the law, subject to a penalty of five years' imprisonment, a fine of $10,000, or both. The law also creates organizational liability for such acts: An organization found to have “conspired” with an individual who committed the interference could be criminally liable for ten times the fee imposed on the individual, or up to $100,000. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 3 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 15 Feb 2019; Approved by House 25 March 2019; Signed by Governor Burgum 10 April 2019

Issue(s): infrastructure

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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 it 23 Feb 2017

Issue(s): face coverings

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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; 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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South Dakota

SB 189: Expanded civil liability for protesters and protest funders

Creates a broad new category of civil liability for “riot boosters,” and establishes a fund to collect money recovered from “rioters” and “riot boosters” in civil lawsuits. Governor Kristi Noem indicated that the law would allow the state to “go after… funders” of disruptive protests related to the construction of pipelines, as well as the money that supports such protests, and “cut it off at the source.” The law newly defines a “riot booster” to include (among other things) a person or organization that does not participate in a riot themselves but who “directs, advises, encourages, or solicits other persons participating in the riot to acts of force or violence.” It is unclear what might constitute encouragement or advice to carry out an act of force, such that an individual who shouts encouragement on the sidelines of a disruptive protest, or organizations that provide advice about how to conduct a protest that is peaceful but disruptive, might be implicated. The law also provides that a person or organization is liable for “riot boosting” if they engage in it personally “or through any employee, agent, or subsidiary.” The law would make anyone or organization convicted of “riot boosting” liable for extensive civil damages to the state or a third party, including punitive damages—regardless of the individual or organization’s actual culpability in costs incurred. The law would also create a cause of action against those who fund persons who commit unlawful acts during a riot. However, the relevant provision is unclear and could be used to hold funders liable even when they did not know the person they funded was going to commit an unlawful act. Accordingly, individuals, organizations, and funders could be held liable for substantial amounts of money for any involvement in a disruptive protest. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 4 Mar 2019; Approved by Senate 7 March 2019; Approved by House 7 March 2019; Signed by Governor Noem 27 March 2019

Issue(s): damage costs, conspiracy, infrastructure, riot

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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 264: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Creates new potential penalties for protests and demonstrations that "interrupt" or "interfere with" a pipeline or pipeline construction site. The law makes it a Class E felony for an individual to knowingly "destroy, injure, interrupt or interfere with" a pipeline, pipeline facility, or related infrastructure, including if it is under construction. The offense is a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $3,000 fine. As introduced, the law provided that an individual or organization that causes or “aids” damage or interference would likewise be guilty of a Class E felony, however these provisions were amended out prior to the law's passage. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 29 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 18 Feb 2019; Approved by House 30 April 2019; Signed by Governor Lee 10 May 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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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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Texas

HB 3557: New criminal and civil penalties for protests around critical infrastructure

Creates new criminal sanctions and expansive civil liability for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The law provides for four new criminal offenses. One, "impairing or interrupting operation of critical infrastructure facility," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property and intentionally or knowingly "impair[ing] or interrupt[ing] the operation of" the facility. The act is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. This provision could target peaceful protests that, e.g., hinder access to pipelines or pipeline construction sites. A second offense, "intent to impair or interrupt critical infrastructure," is defined as entering or remaining on facility property "with the intent to impair or interrupt the operation of the facility." The act is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. This provision could capture peaceful protests that take place near a pipeline or other infrastructure facility, regardless of whether they actually impair or interrupt the facility's operations. The law also creates two new felony offenses for "damage" and "intent to damage" critical infrastructure. Under the law, an association that is found guilty of any of the offenses around critical infrastructure is subject to a $500,000 fine. The law also creates new civil and vicarious liability for individuals and organizations related to the criminal offenses: A defendant who engages in conduct covered by any of the criminal offenses is civilly liable to the property owner, as is an organization that “knowingly compensates" a person for engaging in the conduct. The property owner may sue for and claim actual damages, court costs, and exemplary damages. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Mar 2019; Approved by House 7 May 2019; Approved by Senate 20 May 2019; Signed by Governor Abbott 14 June 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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West Virginia

HB 4618: Eliminating police liability for deaths while dispersing riots and unlawful assemblies

Reaffirms West Virginia's problematic law on rioting, and adds the West Virginia Capitol Police to those authorities who cannot be held liable for the deaths and wounding of individuals in the course of dispersing riots and unlawful assemblies. Under prior West Virginia law, the State Police, sheriffs, and mayors had authority to use means such as curfews and warrantless searches to disperse riots and unlawful assemblies; the law reaffirms and extends this authority to the Capitol Police. According to the law, if a bystander is asked to assist in the dispersal and fails to do so, he or she "shall be deemed a rioter." The law also adds Capitol Police to existing provisions eliminating liability if anyone present, "as spectator or otherwise, be killed or wounded," while the authorities used "any means" to disperse riots or unlawful assemblies or arrest those involved. The law was passed during a statewide strike by West Virginia teachers, thousands of whom protested in February 2018 at the State Capitol. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 13 Feb 2018; Approved by House 22 February 2018; Approved by Senate 8 March 2018; Signed by Governor Justice 10 March 2018

Issue(s): police response, riot, strikes

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