United States Program

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.

Be sure to browse our U.S. Protest Law TrackerCurrent Trends, and Highlights.

Highlights

protest with fist raised (photo credit: unsplash.com)
Stopping the Over-Penalization of Civil Disobedience at Protests in the U.S.

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.

Armed protester at the United We Stand & Patriots March for America (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/CC 2.0)
Keeping Guns Away from Protests

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.

George Floyd protests in Columbus, Ohio (Photo: Paul Becker/Wikimedia)
Reforms Introduced to Protect the Freedom of Assembly

In the wake of complaints about law enforcement’s response to the George Floyd protests, local, state, and the federal government have proposed reforms to better protect the freedom of assembly. These reforms are not necessarily best practices and in some cases could be further strengthened, but they represent important efforts to better protect assembly rights. Visit our resource page here.

In 2018, ICNL convened a group of organizations to address the growing trend of anti-protest laws in the United States. (photo credit: Joe Brusky)
A Proposal to Repair the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

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.

Workers hold US flags at a labor rally in Iowa (photo credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr)
The Foreign Agents Registration Act Is Broken

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 Foreign Policy entitled The Foreign Agents Registration Act is Broken.

Key Resources

ICNL's U.S. Protest Law Tracker - landing page button

U.S. Protest Law Tracker

Started in 2017, the tracker compiles bills – proposed, enacted, or rejected – that could restrict the right to peaceful assembly around the United States.

Reforms to Protect Protest Rights graphic with protest

Reforms to Protect Protest Rights

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.

ICNL's work on the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act

Foreign Agents Registration Act

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has been used to target nonprofits, activists, and others. Learn more about the impact on civil society of its broad and vague provisions.

ICNL's work on issues impacting Freedom of Assembly in the U.S.

Freedom of Assembly

The ability to protest is a cornerstone of U.S. democracy. Browse ICNL’s resources on current threats to the right of assembly in the United States, including legislative briefers, analyses, and reports.

ICNL's list of resources and information on compliance and risk management for U.S. nonprofits.

Compliance & Risk Management

This page provides resources for U.S. nonprofits seeking to comply with federal and state laws as well as learn more about risk management.

ICNL's Global Grantmaking Country Notes: A guide produced for the Council on Foundations for U.S. international grantmakers.

Global Grantmaking Country Notes

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.