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
15 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: Jun. 17, 2019 (Texas), Jun. 4, 2019 (North Carolina, US Federal), May. 20, 2019 (Missouri, Tennessee)
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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 / expired

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 / expired

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

Issue(s): infrastructure, terrorism

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