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