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.


Litigation Challenging New Anti-Protest Laws

Since 2017, states across the U.S. have adopted over forty new laws that restrict the right to peaceful assembly. These laws can criminalize and deter constitutionally protected protest activity, undermining our First Amendment rights. Advocates have challenged many of the new laws, and in some cases courts have found them to be unconstitutional. This page tracks such litigation and provides access to publicly available documents that may be helpful to lawyers, activists, and others seeking to protect assembly rights.

Just Security image source Getty Images
How DHS is Fueling Georgia’s “Terrorism” Crackdown on Cop City Protests

ICNL Senior Legal Advisor Nick Robinson explores Georgia’s recent use of the state’s domestic terrorism statute to charge Cop City protesters. He argues that the Department of Homeland Security needs to take action to ensure that its “domestic violent extremism” policies are not weaponized by local law enforcement against protesters. Learn more about “terrorism” in an era of aggressive policing against protesters in this Just Security article.

New Restrictions on Protests at Statehouses

Capitol buildings and their surrounding grounds provide demonstrators with a public venue that is not only symbolic but also within the “sight and sound” of representatives who can act on their message and media that can amplify it. Yet across the country, governors and lawmakers are using various tools to limit, punish, and deter demonstrations at state capitols. Explore this issue further in our latest U.S. Current Trend.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly photo credit Chris Huggins via Flicker https://www.flickr.com/photos/43332391@N04/4736995818
The Many Problems with Anti-Rioting Laws

While the government has a legitimate interest in combatting riots, anti-rioting laws have a history of abuse, allowing government to bring charges with extreme penalties against protesters, politicians, and other Americans engaged in protected First Amendment activity. They can also lead to costly lawsuits that sap state coffers and waste taxpayer money. These laws should either be better targeted or eliminated. Read the full briefer here.

Photo by Billie Grace Ward 'watchful eye' on Flickr
Protesting in an Age of Government Surveillance

Protesters face growing government surveillance. ICNL’s briefer Protesting in an Age of Government Surveillance examines how new types of technology used by the government to surveil protests can lead to abuse and deter demonstrators from exercising their First Amendment rights. It then outlines how both courts and lawmakers can respond to this threat.

Key Resources

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 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 (FARA)

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.

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 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.