Freedom of Assembly

Protecting Peaceful Protest in the U.S.

From women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement, protests are core to the democratic tradition of the United States. Yet the right to protest is under attack. Peaceful protesters have faced violence by law enforcement and third parties, intrusive surveillance, and arrest and prosecution. As part of our U.S. Program, ICNL works to protect and promote the right to freedom of assembly, developing cutting-edge analysis and other research resources to help advocates and other stakeholders defend this fundamental freedom.

Focus Areas

Limiting Excessive Force

Peaceful protesters have faced indiscriminate and excessive force at the hands of law enforcement. ICNL resources to address this threat include recommendations for reforms to limit the use of tear gas and other so-called less lethal weapons and to ensure accountability for law enforcement violence against protesters.

Black Lives Matter protesters enveloped in tear gas, near the White House in Washington DC, 5/31/2020 (Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash)

Reforming Anti-riot Acts

Authorities have long used anti-riot laws to arrest and punish peaceful protesters. ICNL resources explain the threat posed by such vague and overbroad laws and include recommendations for reform.

Women giving peace sign at protest (photo credit: unsplash.com)

Civil Disobedience and the Law

Protesters who engage in nonviolent unlawful conduct, such as blocking traffic, face emerging threats including substantial new penalties and expansive liability. ICNL resources explore how the law should address civil disobedience without chilling protected peaceful protest activity.

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

Keeping Guns away from Protests

The US has witnessed a growing number of armed protests. The presence of guns discourages people from exercising their rights to assembly and speech, interferes with democratic processes, and poses a threat to public safety. ICNL is working to advance reasonable and constitutionally-sound reforms to keep guns away from protests.

Current Trends in U.S. Civic Space

U.S. Current Trend: Protest Rights Accountability and Reform

U.S. Current Trend: Protest Rights Accountability and Reform
Following a swell of racial justice protests that have taken to the streets, politically charged ... Read More

U.S. Current Trend: Bills Provide Immunity to Drivers Who Hit Protesters

black live matter protest (credit: unsplash.com)
Following a swell of racial justice protests that have taken to the streets, politically charged ... Read More

U.S. Current Trend: New Wave of Legislation Targeting Black Lives Matter Protesters

black live matter protest (credit: pixabay.com)
ICNL's Protest Law Tracker has identified an ongoing wave of anti-protest legislation targeting racial justice ... Read More
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All U.S. Freedom of Assembly Resources

New Restrictions on Civic Mobilization in the United States

Laws restricting demonstrations, boycotts, and other modes of activism are increasingly reducing the space for ... Read More

Protecting Nonviolent Demonstrators by Reforming Anti-Riot Laws in the U.S.

In a forthcoming article in Minnesota Law Review, ICNL’s Nick Robinson argues that U.S. jurisdictions ... Read More

U.S. Current Trend: Protest Rights Accountability and Reform

Following a swell of racial justice protests that have taken to the streets, politically charged ... Read More