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
99 bills
14 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
25 pending 58 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: May. 23, 2019 (Texas), May. 20, 2019 (Missouri, Tennessee), May. 13, 2019 (Illinois)
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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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Idaho

SB 1090: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would create new potential penalties for protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill creates two new offenses: “critical infrastructure trespass,” and “impeding critical infrastructure.” Critical infrastructure trespass is defined in the bill as knowingly entering onto infrastructure property without authorization or not leaving once notified to depart; the bill classifies it as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. “Impeding” critical infrastructure is defined to include “preventing legal access to” a critical infrastructure property or construction site. Under the bill, such impediment is punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if the impediment results in $1,000 worth of damage or economic loss. If the damage or loss is less than $1,000, the offense is punishable by six months’ imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. The bill also provides that an organization “that aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands, or procures” someone to impede critical infrastructure is subject to a $100,000 fine and liable for a civil action by the infrastructure facility. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks—-as well as "[a]ny facility included [above] that is lawfully permitted and under construction.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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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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Illinois

HB 1633: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten the penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure that involve trespassing onto infrastructure property. Under the bill, knowingly trespassing to a critical infrastructure facility is a Class 4 felony, punishable by $1,000 and 3 years in prison. Aggravated criminal trespass to a critical infrastructure facility--defined as trespass with intent to vandalize, deface, or tamper with the facility--is a Class 3 felony punishable by $10,000 and 10 years in prison. The bill would also create a broadly-defined new offense, “criminal damage to a critical infrastructure facility,” which includes knowingly vandalizing, defacing, or tampering with critical infrastructure and does not require actual damage. The offense is a Class 1 felony, punishable by $100,000 and 15 years in prison. An individual convicted of any of the offenses is also civilly liable for money damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees to the owner of the property, for any damage sustained. The bill newly defines “critical infrastructure facility” under Illinois law to include a range of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities that are fenced off or posted. As introduced, the bill also provided that an organization found to have conspired with an individual to commit any of above offenses would be liable for a fine of at least ten times the minimum fine authorized for the individual, however these provisions were removed by an amendment. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2019; Approved by House 11 April 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, 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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Kentucky

HB 238: New penalties for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure

Would create new potential criminal and civil penalties for protests around oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. The bill expands the definition of “key infrastructure assets" to include “national gas or petroleum pipelines.” Encompassed facilities and properties designated “key infrastructure assets” are not limited to areas that are fenced off or posted by “no entry” signs. Under the bill, a person who “intentionally… vandalizes, defaces… or impedes or inhibits” key infrastructure is guilty of “trespass upon key infrastructure assets in the first degree.” It is unclear whether a protest that “impeded” access to a pipeline by blocking a road, or one that “inhibited” the operation of a pipeline by blocking pipeline construction or repair equipment, would fall under this definition. The offense is categorized as a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The bill also provides that an individual convicted of the offense may be civilly liable for “any damages to personal or real property while trespassing.” Finally, the bill provides that a person or “entity” that “compensates or remunerates a person for trespassing” may be held liable for damages, as well. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 5 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Massachusetts

HB 1428: New penalties for protests that block roads

Would penalize “any person who intentionally blocks or prevents access to a public roadway or highway while protesting with the express purpose of preventing passage of others.” Under the bill, anyone who intentionally blocked a public road in the course of a protest could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Massachusetts

HB 3284: New criminal liability for deaths during protests

Would create the new criminal offense of “manslaughter caused by reckless disregard of life while protesting or blocking highway or roadway access.” The offense would be added to the definition of “manslaughter” under Massachusetts law. Accordingly, if organizers led a protest onto a road and a protester was hit by a car, e.g., the organizers could potentially be held liable for manslaughter under the bill. The offense would be punishable by up to twenty years in prison. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Massachusetts

HD 2369: Prohibition on masked demonstrations

Would compel the immediate dispersal of a demonstration or other assembly of people wearing masks or other disguises. The bill provides that if a group of five or more individuals who are "masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration" assemble together, authorities should command them to disperse. If the assembly does not immediately disperse, they are deemed a riot or unlawful assembly and the authorities can compel anyone present to help "suppress" the assembly and arrest those participating. The bill makes no exception for religious or festive attire. Nor does it require any malicious intent by those assembling or conduct beyond wearing masks and assembling in a group. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 17 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): face coverings, riot

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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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Minnesota

SF 2011: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create new potential penalties for protests near pipelines, utilities, and "critical public service facilities." The bill criminalizes trespass onto such properties, including those under construction, as a gross misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Trespass “with the intent to disrupt the operation or provision of services” by the pipeline or utility, is a felony under the bill, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The bill also newly provides that a court may order anyone convicted of the above offenses to pay for “the costs and expenses resulting from the crime.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Mar 2019.

Issue(s): damage costs, infrastructure, security costs, trespass

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Minnesota

HF 1383: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The bill provides that the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities must adopt a policy of sanctioning anyone under an institution's jurisdiction who "materially and substantially interferes with the free expression of others." According to the bill, the policy must include that any student who has twice been found guilty of "infringing the expressive rights of others"--for instance, through a protest--will be suspended for at least one year or expelled. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 18 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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Minnesota

HF 390: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would heighten potential penalties for protesters who intentionally disrupt traffic on a freeway or a roadway on airport property. The version of HF 390 introduced in the 2019-2020 session uses a definition of the offense that is similar to that of HF 390 from the 2017-2018 session, and would result in the same sanctions: Intentional traffic disruption on freeways or airport roadways would be a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The provisions would be added to Minnesota statutes on public nuisance, however, rather than those on roads and right-of-way. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 28 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Missouri

HB 113: 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 a Missouri Senate committee substituted 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. Under the bill, an organization found to be a "conspirator" with someone who committed either offense would be subject to a fine of ten times the maximum fine imposed on the individual. 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: pending

Introduced 18 Apr 2019; Approved by Senate as amended 17 May 2019; Approved by House 17 May 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Missouri

SB 293: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten potential penalties for protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill creates the offense of "willful critical infrastructure trespass," defined as willfully entering property containing a critical infrastructure facility or the construction site of such a facility, without permission of the property's owner or lawful occupant. Under the bill, willful critical infrastructure trespass is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. A person who willfully trespasses with the intent to "impede or inhibit" the infrastructure facility or construction site is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,000. The bill also provides that an organization found to be a "conspirator" with anyone convicted of the above offenses is liable to a fine of ten times that levied on the individual. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks--"whether under construction or operational." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 24 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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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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Ohio

SB 33: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten the penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure by expanding the definitions of "criminal trespass" and "criminal mischief." Like SB 250, introduced in the 2017-2018 session, SB 33 provides that entering and remaining on marked or fenced-off property that contains a "critical infrastructure facility" is criminal trespass and a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Doing so with the purpose of "tampering with" the facility would constitute aggravated trespass, a third degree felony--punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Knowingly, "improperly tampering" with the facility would constitute "criminal mischief," likewise a third degree felony. "Critical infrastructure facility" is expansively defined to encompass oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities among many others. The bill also imposes fines on organizations found guilty of "complicity" in the trespass or mischief offenses, in the amount of ten times the maximum fine that can be imposed on an individual. Ohio law defines "complicity" to include soliciting, procuring, aiding, abetting, or conspiring with another to commit an offense. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 12 Feb 2019; Approved by Senate 1 May 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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Oklahoma

SB 592: Steep fee for protesting at the state capitol

Would require any group of 100 or more people that engage in a protest at the Oklahoma capitol building to post a $50,000 bond to the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority "to offset the cost of additional security, cleanup and repairs." The bill was prefiled and is scheduled to be introduced on February 4, 2019, when the state's legislative session begins. The bill follows the walkout and multi-day protest by thousands of Oklahoma's teachers at the capitol in April 2018. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 18 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): damage costs, security costs, strikes

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Pennsylvania

SB 323: 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 a political subdivision during a protest or demonstration. Like SB 176, introduced in the 2017-2018 session, 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 outlays for police, fire department, and medical services, as well as “related legal, administrative, and court expenses.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): security costs

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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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Texas

SB 2229: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would revise criminal trespass and mischief law in Texas such that individuals and organizations involved in protests on infrastructure sites could be subject to harsh new penalties. The bill would create a new offense of trespass on critical infrastructure “with the intent to either damage, destroy, deface or tamper with” or the intent to “impede or inhibit the operations” of a facility. Accordingly, protesters who sought to peacefully demonstrate on a posted infrastructure facility such as a pipeline, with the intent to disrupt its operations, could be prosecuted. The offense would be a state jail felony punishable by one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The bill would also newly criminalize critical infrastructure mischief, defined to include defacing an infrastructure facility, and make it a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Under the bill, an organization found guilty of either offense would be subject to a fine of ten times the maximum fine imposed on an individual--i.e., $100,000 for trespass, and $1,000,000 for mischief. The bill would expand the current definition of “critical infrastructure” under Texas law to include not only facilities that are completely enclosed by fencing but also property that is posted with signs that are "reasonably likely" to be seen. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 8 Mar 2019.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Texas

HB 2100: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The bill was amended after it was introduced, to require public colleges and universities to adopt a policy establishing disciplinary sanctions for students or student groups who "materially and substantially interfere with the rights of others to engage in, observe, or listen to expressive activities on campus." "Materially and substantially interfere" is not defined. According to the requisite policy, any student found to have twice interfered with another's "expressive activities," for instance through a protest, must be suspended for at least one semester. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 8 Mar 2019; Approved by House 30 April 2019

Issue(s): campus speech

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Texas

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

Would create harsh new criminal sanctions and expansive civil liability for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. Prior to its passage by the House, the bill was amended to mirror a Senate bill, SB 1993, and provide for two new offenses: One, "damage to critical infrastructure facility," is defined as entering or remaining on a facility and intentionally or knowingly "imped[ing] or interrupt[ing] the operation of" the facility. This provision could target protests that, e.g., peacefully hinder access to pipelines or pipeline construction sites. Under the amended bill, “damage to critical infrastructure” is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A second offense, "intent to damage critical infrastructure," is defined as entering onto infrastructure facility with intent to "damage" the facility as defined above--including interrupting its operations. 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 offense of “intent to damage critical infrastructure” is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The bill would make an association that is found guilty of damage to or intent to damage critical infrastructure subject to a $500,000 fine. The bill also creates new civil and vicarious liability for individuals and organizations related to the criminal offenses. A defendant who engages in either damage or intent to damage critical infrastructure is civilly liable to the property owner, as is an organization that “knowingly compensates" a person for engaging in damage or intent to damage critical infrastructure. For both individuals and organizations, the property owner may sue for and claim actual damages, court costs, and exemplary damages. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Mar 2019; Approved by House 7 May 2019; Approved by Senate 20 May 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure

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