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.


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.

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.

Police mace demonstrators outside the Minneapolis Police Department's 4th Precinct building in North Minneapolis on November 18, 2015. (Tony Webster/Wikimedia)
Restricting Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets, and Other Less Lethal Weapons

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.

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.

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.