ICNL seeks to create a legal environment that protects and strengthens nonprofits, activists, and philanthropy in the United States. We promote freedoms of association, assembly, and expression by analyzing trends in civic space, tracking state and federal laws affecting protest, and providing nonprofit organizations with information about legal compliance and risk management. The U.S. program also aims to reduce the negative impact on civil society of “foreign agent” legislation and counter-terrorism measures.
United States Program
After the recent wave of judgments from the Supreme Court on abortion, gun control, and environmental regulation, many Americans are looking for alternatives to the courts for ways to enact democratic change. Yet, in the past several years, states across the country have enacted laws restricting demonstrations, boycotts, and other modes of activism, which are increasingly reducing the space for civic mobilization. Check out this op-ed in the LA Times by ICNL’s Nick Robinson to learn more about this problem.
Civil disobedience at protests has long been used to achieve social justice in the United States. Such nonviolent unlawful conduct has ranged from sit-ins in the Jim Crow South to advocates for women’s suffrage obstructing traffic while peacefully protesting in front of the White House. In an article in Cornell Law Review, ICNL’s Nick Robinson and Elly Page argue for more robust constitutional protection for civil disobedience at demonstrations. Read the full article here.
Since January 2020, the U.S. has witnessed over 600 armed protests. The presence of firearms is intimidating and chills people’s ability to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful assembly. It also creates real dangers for demonstrators. A 2021 study found that protests with firearms were six times more likely to result in violence. Reasonable and constitutionally sound options are available to deal with this issue. These options are explored in our lastest briefer, Keeping Guns Away from Protests.
President-elect Joe Biden has made revitalizing democracy at home and abroad central to plans for his new administration. This piece in Just Security by ICNL’s Elly Page and Nick Robinson lays out five actions that the incoming administration can take to better protect the freedom of assembly.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act has become a central policy tool to respond to foreign interference in U.S. politics. However, stepping up enforcement of FARA before reforming the act is a recipe for disaster. FARA is overbroad and has been used to target U.S. activists and nonprofits. Find out more by reading our article in Just Security entitled Fixing the FARA Mess.
Started in 2020, this page tracks municipal, state, and federal reforms to better protect protest rights including restrictions on tear gas and rubber bullets, efforts to demilitarize the police, and reforms of public order laws that can undermine the freedom of assembly.
In partnership with the Council on Foundations, ICNL maintains reports on thirty-four countries to assist U.S grantmakers when they undertake equivalency determinations for foreign grantees.