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

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.

On May 26, 2020, people protested against police violence after the death of George Floyd. Large crowd of protesters in a street. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Wikimedia)
Militarization, the Freedom of Assembly, and the George Floyd Protests

Protests have spread across major U.S. cities over police violence against people of color, sparked by the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The police response to these protests has often been militarized and aggressive, targeting not only peaceful protesters but also members of the media with arrests and violence. Read our Current Trend analysis here.

Woman wearing a medical mask outside during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: EVG Photos/Pexels)
COVID-19 and U.S. Civic Space: Anti-Mask Laws, Freedom of Assembly, and More

The coronavirus is a significant threat to public health; it does not need to be a significant threat to civic freedom. All 50 states, as well as the federal government, have now declared emergencies and issued a range of executive orders to combat the spread of the virus. Emergency public health measures that adversely affect assembly, association, or public participation should always be based on science, appropriately tailored, and of limited duration. Learn more here.

An Alaska pipeline (Photo: Jim Black/Pixabay)
Overview: Critical Infrastructure Bills in the US

Across the country, communities are gathering at rallies and marches to express concerns about pipelines’ impact on the environment, landowner rights, and indigenous land. “Critical infrastructure” laws target these kinds of gatherings. This one-page overview explains what these laws do and how they can be used to limit freedom of assembly in the US.

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

A close up picture of the coronavirus (Photo: CDC/Unsplash)

Coronavirus and Civic Space in the U.S.

The coronavirus is a significant threat to public health; it does not need to be a significant threat to civic freedom.

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.

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.