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
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 response to nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, law enforcement has used tear gas or rubber bullets in over 100 U.S. cities. These weapons have often been used indiscriminately against peaceful assemblies and have been blamed for escalating confrontations. To address this, municipalities, states, and the federal government have introduced, and in many cases enacted, new legislation to limit the use of these weapons. For more, read our US legislative briefer on restricting the use of less lethal weapons in crowd control here.
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.
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.
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.
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.