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.

34 states have
considered
75 bills
10 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
9 pending 54 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Jan. 17, 2019 (Arkansas), Jan. 15, 2019 (Indiana), Jan. 11, 2019 (South Carolina)
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Arkansas

SB 118: Criminal penalties for school and university campus protesters

Would create a new criminal sanction that could be applied to peaceful protesters on public university as well as high school grounds. The bill contains 17 broadly-worded “guarantees of free speech,” including a provision that “a student shall not significantly obstruct the freedom of other speakers”…“to state their own views on campus.” The bill provides that anyone who negligently violates any of the “rights” provided for in the bill is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which in Arkansas is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Accordingly, a student who was deemed to have “significantly obstructed” the speech of a controversial campus speaker, for example, could be charged with a serious misdemeanor. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 17 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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Indiana

SB 471: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten the 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 bill provides that an individuals who knowingly enters critical infrastructure facility without permission commits critical infrastructure facility trespass, a Level 6 felony punishable by up to 30 months in prison. Under the bill, 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 organization found to have conspired with an individual who commits either offense may also be liable for a fine of $100,000. The bill 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: pending

Introduced 14 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): infrastructure

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Indiana

SB 78: Increased penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would enhance the penalty for a person who commits a "public order offense" while wearing a mask. Public order offenses include disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly, and rioting--generally all misdemeanors. The bill provides that if a person committed such an offense, the prosecutor may seek an additional prison term of up to 30 months if the state can prove that the person intentionally concealed their identity by wearing mask or other face covering. The same bill was initially introduced in January 2018 as SB 73. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): face coverings, riot

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Missouri

HB 442: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would expand the state's 2015 "Campus Free Expression Act" to include provisions requiring universities to impose specific, mandatory penalties on certain campus protesters. The bill--identical to HB 2423, introduced in 2018--provides that any student who is twice found responsible for "infringing upon the expressive rights of others" should be suspended for at least one year or expelled. The bill also calls for a "range of disciplinary sanctions" to be imposed on anyone under the university's jurisdiction who "materially and substantially interferes with the free expression of others." As in HB 2423, HB 442 also waives Missouri'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 9 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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Missouri

HB 288: Expanded definition for "unlawful assembly" and new penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would dramatically increase potential penalties for individuals who protest on public streets or highways, by expanding the definition of “unlawful assembly” and creating the crime of “unlawful traffic interference.” The bill broadly defines 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. (Current Missouri law requires six people who assemble to violate criminal laws with force or violence.) 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. Prefiled on December 18, 2018, in advance of the 2019 session, the bill is substantially the same as the expired bill HB 2145, but would make a first offense of unlawful traffic interference while participating in an unlawful assembly subject to a suspended sentence, with supervised probation for five years, 100 hours of community service, and a fine of up to $1,000. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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New Jersey

AB 2853: Expanded definition of "riot"

Would expand the definition of "riot" to apply to individuals in a group whose disorderly conduct results in property damage. Under the bill, anyone who participates in “disorderly conduct” in a group of four or more may be charged with rioting, if anyone in the group causes any damage to property or other monetary loss. “Disorderly conduct” is broadly defined under New Jersey law, to include any “tumultuous behavior” that causes public annoyance—even swearing loudly. If the damage caused by anyone in the group costs $2,000 or more, anyone in the group can be charged with a third-degree crime, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $15,000. According to the bill, individuals convicted under the riot provisions related to property damage must also reimburse the property owner or State of New Jersey for the damages or loss incurred. The same bill was initially introduced in May 2017 as AB 4777. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2018.

Issue(s): damage costs, riot

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North Dakota

SB 2044: Heightened penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Enhances potential penalties on individuals who protest near existing and planned gas and oil pipelines by criminalizing acts that interrupt or interfere with criminal infrastructure facilities. In addition to prohibiting actual tampering with critical infrastructure property and equipment, the bill prohibits “interfering, inhibiting, impeding, or preventing the construction or repair” of a criminal infrastructure facility. Further, the bill 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 criminal infrastructure facility, including by interfering with pipeline construction, would be a Class C felony under the bill, subject to a penalty of five years' imprisonment, a fine of $10,000, or both. The bill 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: pending

Introduced 3 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): infrastructure

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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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Wyoming

HB 10: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten potential penalties for protests near oil pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill creates the offense of "critical infrastructure trespass," defined as entering or remaining on a critical infrastructure facility or the construction site of such a facility, while aware or on notice that presence is not authorized. Under the bill, critical infrastructure trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. The bill also creates the offense of “impeding critical infrastructure,” defined as intentionally impeding the operations of or access to an infrastructure facility or facility construction site, or tampering with or damaging facility equipment. A person who impedes critical infrastructure, e.g. by blocking the entrance to a pipeline construction site during a protest, may be charged with a felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison and $10,000 if the impediment results in over $1,000 in damage or lost profits. The bill also provides that an organization that "aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands or procures" a person to commit the crime of impeding critical infrastructure is liable to a fine of up to $100,000 and civic damages to the infrastructure facility for lost profits. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, airports, and railroad tracks - or the construction sites thereof. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 14 Dec 2018.

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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