Using Data for Action in the United States

ICNL started the U.S. Protest Law Tracker in 2017 to monitor a wave of anti-protest legislation that undermines people’s freedom of assembly.

For example, several bills introduced in the wake of street protests by the Black Lives Matter movement impose harsh penalties on protesters who block traffic. Other bills introduced after the Dakota Access Pipeline protests create severe new criminal sanctions for activists who trespass during the course of a protest around oil and gas pipelines or for activists who plan protests where such trespass occurs.

Since November 2016, we have tracked over 100 restrictive bills introduced at the local and federal level—40 of them introduced in the first half of 2019 alone.

The tracker has become a key source of timely information for activists and journalists. ICNL has been widely cited in the media, from the St. Louis Dispatch to NPR and Politico. Local advocates have called the Tracker a valuable resource in their efforts to protect the right to protest.

ICNL also works with a broad coalition of partner organizations to educate the public and policymakers about specific anti-protest bills. As a result of these efforts, many bills have been stopped or slowed.

In early 2019 the coalition worked with a group of local civic leaders in Illinois to challenge a bill that would have made it a felony, punishable by three years in jail, to trespass during a protest near oil and gas pipelines. Equipped with ICNL’s analysis, the local groups convinced lawmakers to table the bill.

By providing timely information to the public and building strong alliances, ICNL is helping to ensure that Americans continue to enjoy the right to peaceful assembly.

Published: December 2019

This story is from our 2018-2019 Annual Report. Each story in the report shows how our partners across the world help protect and, where possible, expand civic space.