US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker, part of ICNL's US Program, follows initiatives at the state and federal level since January 2017 that restrict the right to peaceful assembly. For more information and an analysis of this data, click here. For information about our methodology, click here.

45 states have
considered
245 bills
39 enacted 12 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Jun. 2, 2022 (Florida), Apr. 25, 2022 (Washington), Apr. 11, 2022 (Alabama)
Filter by:
Locations
Status
Issues
Date

Locations

Status

Issues

Introduction Date

from

to

Type

or
X

17 entries matching in provided filters in 11 states and 1 federal. Clear all filters
US Federal

HR 6653: Barring small business aid to individuals convicted of "riot" offenses

Would bar individuals convicted of “riot” offenses from receiving small business assistance from the federal government. The bill provides that a person convicted of a felony for actions during or “in connection with” a riot is prohibited from participating in any program run by the Small Business Administration, if the riot resulted in the destruction of a small business. The definition of “riot” under federal law is broad, requiring only a “public disturbance” where one individual in a group commits violence. An individual can be convicted of participating or inciting a “riot” based on conduct that was neither violent nor destructive. A host of actions of peaceful civil disobedience could also be construed as felonies “in connection with” a “riot.” Under the bill, individuals convicted of such offenses would become ineligible for support such as disaster relief loans, loans to avert hardship caused by COVID-19, and other small business assistance. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Feb 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Limit on Public Benefits

return to map
Alabama

SB 17 / HB 21: New Penalties for Protests Near Gas and Oil Pipelines

Expands the definition of "critical infrastructure" under Alabama law to include pipelines and mining operations. Individuals are prohibited from unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure, defined as intentionally entering a posted area of critical infrastructure; the offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. The law also expands the definition of "person" to include nonprofits, creating the possibility that nonprofits who provide support or organizing for environmental protests near critical infrastructure where individuals then trespass could face organizational liability. Under the law, if a person interrupts or interferes with the operations of critical infrastructure, they would additionally be guilty of a Class C felony, punishable by at least one and up to ten years in prison. The draft law was pre-filed for the 2022 legislative session in September 2021. It is nearly identical to HB 516 introduced in 2021. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 11 Jan 2022; Approved by Senate 1 February 2022; Approved by House 10 February 2022; Signed by Governor Ivey 15 February 2022

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

return to map
Alabama

SB 115: EXPANDED DEFINITION OF "RIOT," "INCITEMENT TO RIOT," AND NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTERS WHO BLOCK TRAFFIC

Would redefine "riot" under Alabama law as an "assemblage of five or more" people which results in "conduct which creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons." This definition is broad enough to cover many peaceful protests, as well as other gatherings, where law enforcement merely perceives a danger of property damage. Current Alabama law, by contrast, requires that a person individually engage in "violent conduct" as part of a group in order to have committed "riot." Under the bill, it is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $6,000 fine, to intentionally participate in a "riot" after receiving an order to disperse by law enforcement or when in violation of curfew. The bill provides that if any injuries or property damage exceeding $2,500 occur, then anyone participating in the group is guilty of "aggravated riot," a new Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, even if that individual participant did not contribute to the injury or property damage. The bill expands the current definition of "incitement to riot" under Alabama law to include a person who "funds" or "otherwise aids or abets" another person to engage in a "riot." Given the bill's broad definition of "riot," the redefined definition of "incitement" could cover people only tangentially associated with a protest, such as individuals who hand out bottles of water to protesters. The bill provides that a person convicted of "riot" or "incitement to riot" must serve a minimum of 30 days without option for parole. They must also pay restitution including "the cost of any damage to property", which could presumably include damage caused by other people. The bill creates a new offense of unlawful traffic interference for anyone who "intentionally or recklessly impedes vehicular traffic by walking, standing, sitting, kneeling, lying, or placing an object" in a way that blocks passage of a vehicle on a public or interstate highway. The first offense is a Class A misdemeanor and a second offence (or if property is damaged or someone is injured) is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail. Finally, the bill requires that any locality that defunds a law enforcement agency is no longer eligible for any type of state funding unless they can prove fiscal or practical necessity. This bill is close to identical to the version of HB 445 that passed the House in March of 2021, but did not advance further in the 2021 legislative session (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 18 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability

return to map
Alabama

HB 2 / SB 3: EXPANDED DEFINITION OF "RIOT," "INCITEMENT TO RIOT," AND NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTERS WHO BLOCK TRAFFIC

Would redefine "riot" under Alabama law as an "assemblage of five or more" people which results in "conduct which creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons." This definition is broad enough to cover many peaceful protests, as well as other gatherings, where law enforcement merely perceives a danger of property damage. Current Alabama law, by contrast, requires that a person individually engage in "violent conduct" as part of a group in order to have committed "riot." It is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $6,000 fine, to intentionally participate in a riot after receiving an order to disperse by law enforcement or when in violation of curfew. The bill provides that if any injuries or property damage exceeding $2500 occur, then anyone participating in the group is guilty of "aggravated riot," a new Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, even if that individual participant did not contribute to the injury or property damage. The bill expands the current definition of "incitement to riot" under Alabama law to include a person who "solicits, incites, funds, urges" or "otherwise aids or abets" another person to engage in a "riot." Given the bill's broad definition of "riot," the redefined definition of "incitement" could cover people only tangentially associated with a protest, such as individuals who hand out bottles of water to protesters. The bill requires anyone charged with "riot," "inciting a riot," or "aggravated riot" to be held without bail for up to 24 hours pending a hearing; it also adds mandatory minimum prison sentences for "riot," "aggravated riot," and "incitement to riot," and requires that anyone convicted pay restitution for any property damage incurred by the "riot" as well as "any and all other losses suffered by any victim." The bill creates a new offense of unlawful traffic interference for anyone who intentionally or recklessly impedes traffic by walking, sitting, standing, kneeling, lying, or placing an object to impede the passage of a vehicle on a public or interstate highway. The first offense is a Class A misdemeanor and a second offence (or if property is damaged or someone is injured) is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail. Finally, the bill requires that any locality that defunds a law enforcement agency is no longer eligible for any type of state funding unless they can prove fiscal or practical necessity. This bill is close to identical to the version of HB 445 that passed the House in March of 2021, but did not advance further in the 2021 legislative session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 11 Jan 2022; Approved by House 22 February 2022

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Traffic Interference

return to map
Arizona

SB 1033: Enhanced penalties, new "mob intimidation" offense, and new liability for officials who restrain law enforcement

Would increase penalties for any offense committed "in furtherance of a riot or an unlawful assembly." Arizona law defines "riot" and "unlawful assembly" broadly; "unlawful assembly" for instance includes merely being present at a gathering that includes two people who intend to engage in a "riot," and refusing to disperse. Under the bill's proposed penalty escalations, someone who commits a serious misdemeanor in a way deemed to be "furthering" an "unlawful assembly" could face felony penalties. The bill also creates a new offense of "mob intimidation," defined as gathering with two or more people and using or threatening to use force "to compel or induce, or attempt to compel or induce, another person to do or refrain from doing any act or to assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint against the person's will." The new offense would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Finally, the bill provides that cities and towns have a duty to allow law enforcement to "respond appropriately" to protect property and people during riots and unlawful assemblies, and enables individuals to sue "for any damages" governing officials who breach that duty. If enacted, such provisions could deter local officials who might otherwise seek to limit aggressive law enforcement responses to protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 22 Dec 2021; Prefiled for the 2022 session

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Police Response, Riot, State Liability

return to map
Florida

HB 1435/SB 1954: Charging protest organizers for the costs of responding to a protest

Would allow local authorities to require protest organizers to pay for "all relevant costs and fees associated with designating and enforcing" the zone established for a "special event," "including, but not limited to, costs and fees for the provision of supplemental law enforcement and sanitation services." While the bill's sponsors indicate that it was motivated by large, disruptive "pop-up" gatherings of cars like the "Daytona Truck Meet," it is written broadly enough to cover street protests and demonstrations. The bill defines a "special event" as an "unpermitted temporary activity or event organized or promoted via a social media platform" which is attended by 50 or more persons and substantially increases or disrupts the normal flow of traffic on a roadway, street, or highway." The bill also authorizes law enforcement to "enforce occupancy limits" in "special event zones"; which if applied to protests could allow police could limit the number of protest participants in a certain area. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 10 Jan 2022; Approved by House 2 March 2022; Approved by Senate 4 March 2022; Approved by Governor DeSantis 26 May 2022

Issue(s): Security Costs

return to map
Illinois

SB 3814: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS NEAR CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Would heighten the penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure that involve trespassing onto infrastructure property. Under the bill, knowingly entering or remaining on a "critical infrastructure facility" is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1-3 years in prison and $25,000. Aggravated criminal trespass to a critical infrastructure facility--defined as trespass with "intent to damage, destroy, or tamper with equipment" in the facility--is a Class 3 felony punishable by 5-10 years and $25,000. The bill newly defines "critical infrastructure facility" under Illinois law to include gas and oil pipelines, including those under construction, and a range of pipeline-related facilities, as well as electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities that are fenced off or posted. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

return to map
Kentucky

HB 396: Heightened penalties for "riot" offenses, blocking traffic, and disrupting public meetings

Would expand liability for “riot” from just those who “knowingly participate” in the “riot”, to people who “knowingly provide supplies” to a participant in a “riot” that “could be used as weapons or dangerous instruments.” Many everyday items at protests could be used as weapons, from water bottles to umbrellas; a supporter who hands out water bottles at a protest could seemingly be held liable under these provisions, if the protest is declared a “riot.” The bill also redefines “riot,” as a group of five or more people who engage in “violent and unlawful overt action” that poses a “substantial imminent risk” of property damage or injury. The bill mandates 30-45 day prison sentences without opportunity for probation or parole for participation in a “riot” or “providing supplies” to “riot” participants. The bill also increases penalties for protests that block streets or sidewalks, making it a Class A, not B, misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and $500 to obstruct any “public passage.” If the obstruction prevents access to a building’s emergency exit or the passage of an emergency vehicle, it would be a Class D felony under the bill. A participant in a large protest could seemingly face felony charges if, unbeknownst to them, some portion of the protest blocks a building’s emergency exit. The bill would make it a Class A, not B, misdemeanor to do “any act tending to obstruct or interfere with” a lawful meeting or make “any utterance, gesture, or display designed to outrage the sensibilities of the group” with intent to disrupt the meeting. This could seemingly apply to protesters who speak out of turn or say something controversial at a public hearing. Finally, the bill would allow civil lawsuits against local governments for failing to prevent damage to property, if authorities had reason to believe a "riot" or "tumultuous assemblage" was going to take place and were "grossly negligent" in their response. If enacted, these provisions could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid costly lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 28 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability

return to map
Kentucky

SB 44: Heightened penalties for "riot" offenses and new legal defense for people who use lethal force during a "riot"

Would enhance penalties for offenses committed during a "riot." Kentucky law broadly defines "riot" as a group of five or more people who disturb the public by "tumultuous and violent conduct" that creates "grave danger" of property damage or injury, or "substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function." Under the bill, someone charged with any offense during a "riot" may not be released for at least 48 hours after their arrest. If the person is convicted of the offense, the bill requires increased fines, restitution, and mandatory jail time if the person was near the "riot" and knew that it was occurring when they committed the offense. Resisting arrest, usually a misdemeanor offense, is a Class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison if it occurs during a "riot." The bill likewise intensifies penalties for blocking traffic, from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class D felony if it occurs during a "riot." The bill would in certain cases bar 24-hour protests on government property, such as the grounds of a statehouse, by making it a Class A misdemeanor to "camp" on such property during a "riot" or within a day after a "riot." "Camping" is defined as conduct between 10pm and 7am that includes placing or sitting on a chair or other furniture. The second or subsequent offense of unlawful "camping" is a Class D felony. The bill amends Kentucky's "stand your ground" law, establishing a legal justification for using deadly or other violent force in self-defense or defense of others during a "riot." The bill would create a new presumption that if someone uses defensive force intended to cause death or significant bodily harm "during the course of a riot," that they had a "reasonable fear" of death or harm to themselves or someone else. The bill does not require that the object of the violence force be actually engaged in the "riot." The bill would also allow civil lawsuits against local governments for failure to prevent damage to property, if authorities had reason to believe a "riot" or "tumultuous assemblage" was going to take place and were "grossly negligent" in their response. If enacted, these provisions could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid costly lawsuits. Finally, the bill creates new penalties--up to 3 months in jail--for someone who "accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges" a law enforcement officer using "abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language" or "gestures," if it would have a "direct tendency to provoke a violent response" from the officer and prevent them from "adequately performing his or her duties." (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 5 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Traffic Interference, Camping, State Liability, Stand Your Ground

return to map
Louisiana

HB 101: New legal justification for killing protesters

Would amend Louisiana's law on "justifiable homicide," allowing individuals who kill someone to be absolved if the killing was committed "for the purpose of preventing imminent destruction of property or imminent threat of tumultuous and violent conduct during a riot." If enacted, the provisions could encourage deadly confrontations at protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 21 Feb 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Stand Your Ground

return to map
Mississippi

HB 1106: Heightened penalties for protesters on streets and sidewalks

Would significantly increase the penalties for protesters who obstruct the "convenient and normal" use of streets and sidewalks by "impeding" or "hindering" traffic or passage thereon. Under current Mississippi law, individuals guilty of such obstruction may be charged with a $500 fine and 6 months in jail; the bill would make such obstruction punishable by a $1,500 fine and a year in jail. The bill would also introduce a mandatory 30-day jail sentence for second and subsequent offences, and a fine of up to $2,500. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 17 Jan 2022; Died in committee

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
Mississippi

HB 24 / HB 613: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTORS WHO INTERFERE WITH TRAFFIC AND A LEGAL SHIELD FOR DRIVERS AND OTHERS WHO INJURE OR KILL PROTESTERS

Would create a vaguely defined new felony offense, "violent or disorderly assembly" that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined as conduct by seven or more assembled people that creates an "immediate danger of damage to property" or personal injury, or that "substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions or services." The offense would be punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The vagueness of the definition would allow authorities broad discretion to determine what constitutes, for instance, "creat[ing] an immediate danger" of property damage or injury. The bill includes new penalties for protests that interfere with traffic on roads and sidewalks, including a felony offense for "interfering with the regular flow of vehicular traffic" during a "violent or disorderly assembly." Under the bill, a driver who injures or kills someone who "obstructs or interferes with" traffic during an unpermitted protest or a "violent or disorderly assembly" is not criminally or civilly liable, as long as the driver did not do so "intentionally." The bill strips unemployment assistance from any person who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a number of protest-related offenses, including "violent or disorderly assembly," and requires that government employees found guilty of violating any of the bill's provisions be fired from their positions. The bill precludes civil lawsuits against the state by anyone convicted of "unlawfully participating in a riot, unlawful assembly, public demonstration, mob violence, or civil disobedience," if the claim arises out of that conduct. Further, the bill creates a new civil right of action against local governments by any "victim" of "violent or unlawful assembly" or other protest-related offenses, if the local government "failed or was grossly negligent" in policing a riot or "violent or disorderly assembly" - provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. The bill would newly add "violent or disorderly assembly" to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted for "racketeering activity" under Mississippi's RICO statute, such that an organization or individual found to have "conspired" with individuals to engage in a protest that is deemed a "violent or disorderly assembly" could be prosecuted under RICO, and subject to felony penalties. Finally, the bill would amend Mississippi's law on "justifiable homicide," creating a new legal justification for anyone who uses deadly force to "necessarily" defend their business "where there is looting, rioting" or other offenses created under the bill, including the defacing of public property. Identical language was introduced by another House member as HB 613. The text was first introduced as HB 83 in the 2021 session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 4 Jan 2022; Died in committee

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Limit on Public Benefits

return to map
Missouri

HB 1914: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would increase the penalty for obstructing a public street or highway to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. A second offense would be a Class E felony, punishable by one to four years in prison. If a person commits "unlawful traffic interference" on an interstate highway, it is a Class E felony, punishable on the first offense by a suspended sentence of probation for five years, 100 hours of community service, and a fine of up to $750. The offense of traffic interference on any public street, highway, or interstate highway while part of an "unlawful assembly" is a class D felony. For a first offence the court shall impose a term of supervised probation of five years, one hundred hours of community service, and a fine of up to $1,000. An "unlawful assembly" is defined under the bill as two or more persons meeting with the purpose of violating any law, which presumably could include the prohibition on traffic interference. The same bill was introduced as HB 1441 in the 2021 session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Dec 2021; Prefiled for the 2022 session

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
New Jersey

S 1206: Expanded "riot" definition, new penalties for "incitement to riot", and new legal defense for people who hurt protesters

Expands the legal definition of "riot," a third degree offense under the bill, to include any group of three or more individuals whose shared intent to engage in disorderly and violent conduct results in "imminent danger" of property damage or personal injury, or actual damage or injury. Notably, the new definition does not require that the individuals' conduct be disorderly or violent, or that they commit any actual damage or injury. Under the bill, a "riot" consisting of 25 or more people, or one that "endangers the safe movement of a vehicle," is automatically an "aggravated riot," a new crime of the second degree under the bill. As such, large groups of protesters or ones that block traffic, even temporarily, could face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Under the bill, "inciting" someone to participate in a riot is a crime of the third degree, punishable by 5 years in prison. "Aggravated incitement," which results if there is property damage over $5,000 is a crime of the second degree, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill also creates a new criminal offense of "mob intimidation," defined as a group of three or more people who act with a "common intent" to compel "or attempt to compel" another person to "do or refrain from doing any act," or "assume, abandon, or maintain a particular viewpoint" against their will. The offense is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill could also encourage violence against protesters by creating a new affirmative defense in civil lawsuits for personal injury, death, or property damage, such that a defendant could avoid liability by establishing that the injury, death, or damage they committed "arose from" conduct by someone "acting in furtherance of a riot." Finally, the bill creates a new civil right of action against a municipal government that fails to provide "respond appropriately to protect persons and property during a riot or unlawful assembly," making them civilly liable for damages, including personal injury or property damage. These provisions, if enacted, could encourage municipal governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. The same bill was proposed as S3992 in the 2020-2021 session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Feb 2022.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Stand Your Ground

return to map
New Jersey

A 456 / S 84: HEIGHTENED PENALTIES FOR BLOCKING TRAFFIC, RIOT, DISORDERLY CONDUCT, AND RELATED OFFENSES

Would make it a felony offense to purposely or recklessly obstruct a public road while engaging in "disorderly conduct" or a "riot," punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. Both "disorderly conduct" and "riot" are defined broadly under New Jersey law: "Disorderly conduct," for instance, could include "recklessly creating a risk" of "public inconvenience" by causing a "hazardous condition," or using "unreasonably loud and offensively coarse" language in a public place. The bill would also broaden the definition of "riot," such that a group of seven or more people who engage in "disorderly conduct" and cause any damage to property could face riot charges, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $15,000. The bill would create a new felony offense for disorderly conduct in a "place of public accommodation" that is committed during a "riot." It would also establish a felony offense for chalking or using graffiti on a public monument during an unruly protest: Current law penalizes purposely defacing or damaging any public monument or structure as a disorderly persons offense, subject to six months in jail. The bill would make the same offense a felony punishable by a year and a half in prison and $10,000, if committed during a "riot." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

return to map
New York

A 8342: Mandatory Sanctions for Campus Protesters

Would create new mandatory penalties that could be applied against nonviolent protesters at all state and city colleges and universities in New York. Under the bill, a student that "materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others" would face a minimum one week suspension for the first offense; a minimum two week suspension for a second offense; a minimum one semester suspension for a third offense; and expulsion for a fourth offense. As such, a student protester that was deemed to interrupt a speaker at an event would be required to be suspended. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 20 Oct 2021.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

return to map
Virginia

SB 531: Penalties for highway protests and new legal defense for individuals who injure protesters

Would heighten the penalty for protestors who demonstrate on highways, by creating a new Class 1 misdemeanor offense for anyone who "maliciously obstructs" the "normal use" of a highway by standing or remaining on it or otherwise "hindering" its use. The offense would be punishable by up to a year in jail and $2,500. Under the bill, a person being civilly sued for wrongful death, injury, or property damage could newly assert an affirmative defense that the injury or damage was sustained by someone participating in a "riot." The bill also creates a civil action against government officials for damages caused during a "riot" or "unlawful assembly," if the officials prohibit law enforcement officers from taking action that would have "prevent[ed] or materially mitigate[d]" injuries or property damage caused by "or related to" a "riot" or "unlawful assembly." Such provisions could encourage authorities to allow overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests, in order to avoid costly lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 12 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Stand Your Ground

return to map

For more information about the Tracker, contact Elly Page at EPage@icnl.org.