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 peaceful assembly. For information about our methodology, click here.

36 states have
considered
104 bills
16 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
17 pending 69 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Sep. 16, 2019 (Wisconsin), Sep. 12, 2019 (California), Sep. 11, 2019 (Wisconsin)
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California

AB 1358: New restrictions on campus protests

Would impose new limits on protests at public and private institutions of higher education. The bill would require all institutions of higher education in the state to adopt a policy prohibiting protests and demonstrations that “material and substantially infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity” and make protesters involved in such assemblies “subject to sanction.” As a result, protests in public areas of campus that, for instance, made it difficult to hear a speech, would be banned and its participants liable to penalties. This behavior would be subject to a “range of disciplinary sanctions,” including “suspensions, firings, and expulsions.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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Georgia

SB 339: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

**SB 339 was signed into law following amendments that removed the most restrictive provisions.** As originally introduced, Senate Bill 339 would have created mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The introduced bill required public universities and community colleges to adopt a policy prohibiting and subjecting to sanction individuals involved in “protests or demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity” on campus. Additionally, the introduced bill required administrators to suspend for at least one year or expel any student who was twice “found responsible for infringing on the expressive rights of others,” such as through a protest of a campus speaker. Amendments to the bill removed the provisions related to specific sanctions, prior to the bill's passage by the Senate. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 19 Jan 2018; Governor Deal signed it 8 May 2018

Issue(s): campus speech

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Illinois

HB 2280: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. Like HB 2939, introduced in the 2017-2018 session, HB 2280 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 8 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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Michigan

HB 4436: New limits on campus protests

Would impose new limits on protests at public colleges and universities. The bill would require all public institutions of higher education to adopt a policy prohibiting protests and demonstrations that “substantially and materially infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity,” and make protesters involved in such assemblies "subject to sanction." As a result, protests in public areas of campus that, for instance, made it difficult to hear a speech, would be banned and its participants liable to penalties. The policy would apply not only to students and faculty but any other person “lawfully present on campus.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Apr 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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New Jersey

A 5731: Mandatory penalties for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The bill requires all public institutions of higher education to adopt a policy that bars members of the campus community from engaging in conduct that “materially and substantially disrupts another person’s expressive activity or infringes on the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity.” Under the required policy, any member of the campus community that has twice materially and substantially disrupted the expressive rights of others--such as by protesting a controversial speaker--must be given a minimum punishment of a one-term suspension. If a lesser punishment is imposed, the institution has to submit an explanation in writing to the institution’s Committee on Free Expression. The bill also requires that “a range of disciplinary sanctions” be imposed for anyone under the jurisdiction of the institution who materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 23 Aug 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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South Carolina

SB 33: 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 “[p]rotests and demonstrations that materially and substantially 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. The bill also waives South Carolina's immunity from federal lawsuits related to the law, such that a speaker or student group who feels the law is insufficiently enforced could sue the state and/or university in federal or state court. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 8 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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Wisconsin

AB 444: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would impose mandatory disciplinary measures on student protesters in certain cases. The bill requires that the University of Wisconsin's Board of Regents adopt a policy that includes a range of disciplinary sanctions for anyone under an institution’s jurisdiction who engages in “violent or other disorderly conduct that materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others.” The bill further requires universities in the state system to suspend for at least one semester any student “who has twice been found responsible for interfering with the expressive rights of others.” If a student is found responsible for such interference a third time, they must be expelled. As a result, rowdy protests in public areas of campus that, for instance, made it difficult to hear a speech, would be banned and its participants liable to penalties. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Sep 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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