US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker follows state and federal legislation introduced since January 2017 that restricts the right to peaceful assembly. For more information, visit our Analysis of US Anti-Protest Bills page.

45 states have
considered
303 bills
44 enacted 32 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: May. 23, 2024 (West Virginia), May. 22, 2024 (Louisiana, Washington), May. 21, 2024 (US Federal)
Filter by:
Locations
Status
Issues
Date

Locations

Status

Issues

Introduction Date

from

to

Type

or
X

35 entries matching in provided filters in 15 states and 1 federal. Clear all filters
US Federal

S 4240 / HR 8242: Barring student loan forgiveness for campus protesters

Would bar federal student loan forgiveness for individuals convicted of protest-related offenses on a college or university campus. The “No Bailouts for Campus Criminals Act” would exclude an individual from the federal government’s forgiveness, cancellation, or modification of a student loan if they are convicted of “any offense” under federal or state law “related to” the individual’s conduct at a protest occurring at an institution of higher education. As such, if adopted, individuals convicted of even minor, nonviolent state law offenses such as trespass or unlawful assembly would be ineligible for loan forgiveness. Congressional sponsors of the bill cited nationwide campus protests related to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as impetus for the legislation.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 May 2024.

Issue(s): Campus Protests

return to map
US Federal

HR 8221: Deportation of foreigners charged with crimes related to protests

Would provide for the deportation of a foreign individual “charged” with “any crime” related to their participation in “pro-terrorism or antisemitism rallies or demonstrations.” Under the bill, a foreign individual merely charged—not necessarily convicted—with an offense as minor as a misdemeanor could face deportation if the offense was “related” to their participation in a protest deemed “pro-terrorism or antisemiti[c]" in nature. The sponsor of the bill, titled “Hamas Supporters Have No Home Here Act,” cited the involvement of foreign students in campus protests against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 May 2024.

return to map
US Federal

S 3887: Heightened penalties for riot offenses

Would significantly increase the penalties for federal “riot” and “incitement to riot” offenses if they involve property damage or injury. The bill would create a new, mandatory one-year prison sentence for anyone who commits “an act of violence” or aids someone else in doing so, while participating in, organizing, “inciting,” “promoting,” or “encouraging” a “riot.” The maximum penalty would jump to 10, instead of 5, years in prison. Federal law defines “act of violence” broadly to include using force against property—or just attempting or threatening to use such force. Under the bill, someone who knocked over a trash can, or merely threatened to do so, while cheering on an unruly protest, could face 10 years in prison.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Mar 2024.

Issue(s): Riot

return to map
US Federal

S 3492 / HR 6926: Federal penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would create federal penalties for protesters who block public roads and highways. The “Safe and Open Streets Act” would make it a federal crime to “in any way or degree, purposely obstruct, delay, or affect commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce by blocking a public road or highway.” The offense would also cover individuals who merely “attempt” or “conspire” to block a public road or highway. The offense would be punishable by an unspecified fine and up to 5 years in federal prison.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Dec 2023.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Traffic Interference

return to map
Alaska

HB 386 / SB 255: New penalties for protesting in the street and other public places without a permit

Would introduce new criminal and civil penalties that could cover protesters who demonstrate in street and other public places without a permit. The bill creates a new offense of “obstruction of free passage in public places,” to apply if someone “knowingly renders a public place impassable or passable only with unreasonable inconvenience or hazard.” While it includes exceptions for “obstruction” authorized by a permit or otherwise authorized by the law or a person “in charge of” the premises, the new offense would clearly cover unpermitted protests—particularly large protests in public plazas, parks, streets or other places that might make it “unreasonably inconvenient” for other individuals or cars to pass. If the protest “substantially interferes” with someone’s access to a government building, or “interferes” with an emergency responder, the offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and $25,000. In all other cases it would be a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by 90 days in jail and $2,000. In addition to criminal penalties, the bill creates expansive civil liability for protesters who block public places. A person “whose passage is obstructed” could sue a protester for $10,000 if their rights were infringed, $50,000 if their property was damaged, and $100,000 if they were personally injured – in addition to attorney’s fees and costs. Under the bill, civil liability extends to anyone who “directly or indirectly, by words or action, aids, encourages, or authorizes the conduct,” or “conspires” to engage in the conduct. It also extends to anyone outside the state of Alaska if they “knew or had reason to know” that their acts were likely to lead to the obstruction. Finally, the bill substantially increases the penalty for trespassing if it creates a substantial risk of physical injury, or “interferes with” an “emergency response.” First degree trespass, which includes entering onto property with intent to violate a law, would be a Class C felony in such cases, punishable by five years in prison and $50,000, rather than a Class A misdemeanor. As such, protesters who for instance enter onto private property to engage in peaceful civil disobedience could face felony penalties.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 21 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Civil Liability, Protest Supporters or Funders, Traffic Interference, Trespass

return to map
Arizona

SB 1073: Heightened penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would create a new felony offense that could cover protesters who demonstrate on highways and certain other public roads. Under the bill, protesters who intentionally interfere with passage on a highway, bridge, tunnel, or any road leading to an airport if there are 25 or more cars or people on it, after being verbally warned to desist, could be guilty of a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to 5.75 years in prison. Arizona law already provides serious misdemeanor penalties, which can include jail time, for offenses related to “recklessly interfer[ing]” with traffic by “creating an unreasonable inconvenience or hazard.” The bill’s sponsor said that protesters who blocked a bridge during their demonstration for a ceasefire in Gaza inspired his bill.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 16 Jan 2024; Approved by Senate 31 January 2024; Approved by House 26 March 2024; Vetoed by Governor Hobbs 2 April 2024

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
Florida

HB 275 / SB 340: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Creates a new felony offense for trespassing that could cover some protests near pipelines and other infrastructure that do not involve actual property damage. The law broadly defines “critical infrastructure” to include above or belowground pipelines, as well as a range of other gas, electricity, water, mining, and telecommunications facilities. Under the law, entering onto critical infrastructure property with notice that such entrace was prohibited is a 3rd degree felony offense. As such, protesters who cause no damage but merely enter onto posted property that contains a pipeline in the course of their protest could face felony charges and up to 5 years in prison if convicted. By contrast, trespassing onto private property is generally a 2nd degree misdemeanor, punishable by at most 60 days in jail. The House bill as originally also created an overbroad “improper tampering” felony offense, which would have included any unauthorized action to “change…the physical condition of the property or any portion thereof,” or to “knowingly and intentionally… deface” critical infrastructure property, but these provisions were removed by amendment.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 25 Oct 2023; Approved by House 22 February 2024; Approved by Senate 28 February 2024; Signed by Governor DeSantis 17 May 2024

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

return to map
Georgia

SB 359: Expanded grounds for RICO charges against protesters

Would enable Georgia’s RICO statute to cover far more protest-related activity—including even minor offenses like unlawfully posting protest signs or engaging in “disorderly conduct.” The bill would first amend Georgia law related to enhanced sentences for “crimes involving bias or prejudice.” It would expand the law’s current grounds for “bias”—intentional selection of a victim or group because of their “actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability”—to include “political affiliation or beliefs.” The bill would also amend the law’s list of offenses subject to enhanced sentencing to include a number of offenses related to civil disobedience and protest, including “disorderly conduct,” “loitering,” and unlawful “placement of posters, signs, and advertisements.” (Criminal trespass is already included as a covered offense.) The mandatory enhanced penalties include up to 1 year in jail and $5,000 for a covered misdemeanor, and at least 2 years in prison and $5,000 for felonies. As such, protesters who merely post signs on public property without authorization, that are deemed to target another group’s political beliefs, would face a year in jail. Further, the bill would amend Georgia’s RICO statute to make any such offense—or an attempt to commit, or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to commit such an offense—an offense that could be charged under RICO as a “pattern of racketeering activity.” Convictions under RICO carry severe penalties of up to 20 years in prison. The bill was introduced amidst RICO charges brought against dozens of protesters of Georgia’s planned police training facility, known as “Cop City.”

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 18 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders

return to map
Idaho

HB 519: New penalties for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure

Would create new offenses for “trespassing” onto and “impeding” critical infrastructure that could cover nonviolent protesters near pipelines and other infrastructure, whether operational or under construction. The bill defines “critical infrastructure” to include a broad range of energy, water, communication and transportation facilities, regardless of whether they are fenced off or posted with no trespassing signs. Under the bill, someone commits critical infrastructure trespass who “knowingly and willfully enters or remains in a critical infrastructure facility or construction site.. without permission of the owner of the property or after notice is given to depart or not to trespass.” Because the definition of critical infrastructure is not limited to facilities that are fenced or posted, the trespass offense as written could cover a protester who is intentionally on a pipeline construction site even if they didn't know that they were trespassing and no notice was provided. The first offense is a misdemeanor (up to 6 months in jail and $1,000), but a second offense within 5 years is a felony (up to 10 years and $20,000). A person is guilty of the “impeding” offense if they “knowingly and intentionally impede the operations of a critical infrastructure facility” without authorization. “Impede” is defined to mean “to block the operation of or prevent legal access to” a CI facility or CI facility construction site; or to “damage, destroy, deface, or tamper with” a CI facility or its equipment. If the “impeding” results in damages of less than $10,000, the offense is a misdemeanor (up to 6 months in jail and $10,000), but if it results in damages of more than $10,000 the offense is a felony (up to 2 years and $100,000). As written, the “impeding” offense could cover e.g. protesters who block the road to a pipeline construction site. Under the bill, an individual or organization that “aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands, or procures” someone to commit CI trespass or impeding, with the intent that the person complete the offense, is liable to a fine of up to $100,000. The bill also provides that critical infrastructure facilities can also sue individuals or organizations for damages, including damages for lost profits.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 8 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Civil Liability, Protest Supporters or Funders, Infrastructure, Trespass

return to map
Illinois

HB 5819: New penalties for protests that block traffic

Would create a new felony offense for protests that block traffic on highways and other busy roadways for more than five minutes. Existing Illinois law already prohibits protests or other assemblies on roadways without a permit or other permission from law enforcement, and requires that such assemblies not obstruct pedestrian or car traffic “in an unreasonable manner;” violations are a Class A misdemeanor offense. Under the bill, blocking “an exceptionally busy public right-of-way” for more than five minutes in a way that prevents “or would prevent” passage of an emergency vehicle, is a Class 4 felony. As written, the felony offense applies regardless of whether an emergency vehicle was actually blocked, or whether the roadway was “exceptionally busy” at the time it was blocked. “Exceptionally busy public right-of-way” is defined as a public road that typically carries at least 24,000 cars daily. The bill would also newly preempt cities and counties from enforcing a more lenient rule related to protests and demonstrations on roadways.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 17 Apr 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
Illinois

HB 4746: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS NEAR CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Would create a new felony offense that could cover nonviolent protesters at pipeline and other infrastructure sites. Under the bill, someone who knowingly “vandalizes, defaces, tampers with” or damages part of a critical infrastructure facility commits a felony. If the “value of the property” (not the cost of the damage) is less than $500, the offense is a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1-3 years in prison and up to $20,000; if the property value is $500-$10,000, it is a Class 3 felony (2-5 years and $20,000); and if the property value exceeds $10,000, it is a Class 2 felony (3-7 years and $20,000). The bill newly defines "critical infrastructure facility" under Illinois law to include gas and oil pipelines and a range of pipeline-related facilities, as well as electric, water, telecommunications, railroad, and “health care” facilities, regardless of whether they are fenced off or clearly marked with signs. As such, a protester who chalked or spraypainted a pipeline without damaging its functionality could face felony charges and a lengthy prison sentence if convicted. The bill extends liability to anyone who “conspires with” a person to commit the offense. It also provides that critical infrastructure owners can sue for punitive and compensatory damages.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 5 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Civil Liability, Protest Supporters or Funders, Infrastructure

return to map
Illinois

SB 3086: 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 2-5 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. Nearly identical text was introduced as SB 3814 in the 2022 legislative session, and as SB 1312 in 2023.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

return to map
Kentucky

HB 626: New penalties for protesters at the statehouse

Creates two new criminal offenses that could cover organizers and participants of peaceful protests at the Kentucky statehouse. Under the bill, a person commits first degree “interference with a legislative proceeding” if they intentionally engage in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” in a legislative building, and the conduct “disrupts” or “impedes” a meeting of members of the legislature. The bill does not define “disrupt” or “impede,” so it is not clear whether even fleeting disruptions are included. An individual’s first offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail; a subsequent offense is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years. As such, someone who twice engages in a noisy protest that interrupts a committee hearing, even momentarily, could face 5 years in prison. Under the bill, a person commits second degree “interference with a legislative proceeding” if they intend to “disrupt” or “impede” the legislature, and either (a) enter or “conspire” to enter or facilitate another person’s entering part of the statehouse or another legislative building, or (b) “obstruct or impede” or “conspire to obstruct or impede,” or “facilitate[] another person obstructing or impeding” the movement of a legislator or legislative staff inside a legislative building. An individual’s first offense is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 3 months in jail; a subsequent offense is a Class A misdemeanor. As written, the bill could result in jail sentences for advocates who organize large or noisy protests at the statehouse, as well as participants of such protests, even if they do not actually interfere with legislative proceedings. The bill also requires law enforcement to arrest individuals who commit either offense.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 21 Feb 2024; Approved by House 11 March 2024

return to map
Louisiana

HB 737: Vague ban on residential protests

Would broadly criminalize protests “near” a residence that “threaten to disrupt” an individual’s “right to control, use, or enjoy” their residence. The bill does not define what constitutes “near,” such that protests anywhere in the vicinity of a house, apartment, or other place used as a dwelling, including in public parks or streets, could be banned. As written, the bill does not require that a protest actually disrupt someone’s enjoyment of their home, only that it “threaten” to do so. Nor does the bill require any intent on the part of protesters to target a specific residence or to harass or disturb specific residents.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 18 Mar 2024; Approved by House 9 April 2024; Approved by Senate 20 May 2024

return to map
Louisiana

HB 383: Civil immunity for drivers who hit protesters

Would limit the civil liability of drivers who injure or kill protesters who were unlawfully in the street. The bill provides that if a driver hits someone who was illegally “blocking a roadway,” the driver cannot be sued for any injury, death, or damage if he “reasonably believe[d]” that he was in immediate danger of injury and was trying to “retreat or escape.” The sponsor cited a rise in protests across the country as motivation for the bill.     

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 29 Feb 2024; Approved by House 8 April 2024; Approved by Senate 20 May 2024

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

return to map
Louisiana

HB 355: Criminal immunity for drivers who hit protesters

Would establish immunity from criminal prosecution for drivers who injure or kill protesters who are unlawfully in the street. The bill provides that if someone is illegally “blocking a roadway,” a driver is legally justified in using “reasonable and apparently necessary” force or violence, including lethal violence, if he “reasonably believes” that he is in immediate danger of injury and is trying to “retreat or escape.” The sponsor cited a rise in protests across the country as motivation for the bill.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 29 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

return to map
Louisiana

HB 205: New racketeering penalties for protesters

Would add several protest-related offenses to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted under Louisiana’s racketeering law, which carries steep penalties. The nine offenses added to the racketeering law under the bill include “riot,” “inciting to riot,” and “criminal damage to historic buildings or landmarks by defacing with graffiti.” Louisiana law defines “riot” broadly, requiring no actual violence or damage but three or more people engaged in a “public disturbance” that creates a “danger of injury or damage” by an “imminent threat of tumultuous and violent conduct.” As such, individuals who participate in tumultuous protests, or who “incite” others to participate in them, could be charged with a violation of Louisiana’s racketeering law if they did so more than once and as part of an enterprise with others. Racketeering violations are punishable by up to 50 years in prison with hard labor and a one million dollar fine. The bill also adds “criminal damage to a critical infrastructure” to the racketeering law, such that certain civil disobedience actions near pipelines and other infrastructure could be covered as well. 

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Feb 2024; Approved by House 2 April 2024; Approved by Senate 14 May 2024

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Infrastructure, Riot

return to map
Louisiana

HB 127: Heightened penalties for street protesters and organizers

Would increase existing penalties for impeding traffic and create a new offense that could cover individuals who plan or organize protests that would impede traffic. Current law in Louisiana makes impeding traffic a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and $200. The bill would increase the penalty to nine months in jail and $750. Additionally, under the bill, an individual who engages in “the coordination, organization, or planning of” a protest or other act on any road, highway, or thoroughfare “which will render movement thereon more difficult,” commits an offense punishable by one year in jail and $5,000. The offense as written does not define what would constitute “coordination, organization, or planning,” nor does it require that that the protest or other act actually takes place or that it actually impedes traffic. 

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Feb 2024; Approved by House 15 April 2024; Approved by Senate 16 May 2024

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Traffic Interference

return to map
Minnesota

SF 5500: New civil immunity for drivers who hit protesters

Would shield from civil lawsuits drivers who hit street protesters in certain situations. The bill provides that anyone who unlawfully obstructs a roadway cannot sue a driver for any injury, loss, death or damage they suffered if the driver was seeking to “retreat or escape” from the roadway obstruction and believed they were in immediate danger of injury.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 May 2024.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity

return to map
Missouri

HB 2218: Imposing costs of protest damage on organizers and sponsors

Would create new civil cause of action against any person who “sponsors or organizes” a protest or demonstration that causes property or personal damage. Under the bill, if a protest results in property damage, or if it blocks a highway or emergency vehicle, resulting in property damage or personal injury, “any person” who sponsored or organized the protest is liable for damage costs. The bill does not require that the organizer or sponsor have any role in causing the damage or injury, or any intent or knowledge that damage or injury would occur during the protest, in order to be liable.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Civil Liability, Protest Supporters or Funders, Traffic Interference

return to map
New Jersey

S 834 / A 3489: NEW PENALTIES FOR BLOCKING TRAFFIC AND OTHER PROTEST-ADJACENT CONDUCT

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 a year and a half 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 five or more people who engage in "disorderly conduct" and cause any damage to property or persons could face riot charges, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $15,000. Individuals who deface a monument during an unruly protest would also face heightened penalties under the bill: Current law penalizes 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." The bill would create new sanctions for protest organizers and patrons, as well: Under the bill, a person who "conspires with others as an organizer, supervisor, financier or manager to commit" one of a number of crimes during a protest would be guilty of "promotion of violent, disorderly assembly" and face enhanced criminal penalties. The text was introduced as S3261 during the 2020-2021 session, and as S1783/A4577 during the 2022-2023 session.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Riot, Traffic Interference

return to map
New Jersey

S 652: 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." The same bill was proposed as S84/A456 in the 2022-2023 session. 

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

return to map
New Jersey

S 399: EXPANDED "RIOT" DEFINITION, NEW PENALTIES FOR "INCITEMENT TO RIOT", AND NEW LEGAL DEFENSE FOR PEOPLE WHO HURT PROTESTERS

Would expand 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, and as S1206 in the 2022-2023 session.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Jan 2024.

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

return to map
New York

A 10057: New criminal penalties for masked protesters

Would make it illegal to wear a mask or other disguise during a protest. The bill would create a new criminal violation that would apply to someone “involved in a lawful assembly, unlawful assembly, or riot” who wears a hood, mask, or other devise that disguises their face “so as to conceal” their identity. The bill’s only exception to the offense is for “personal protective equipment,” such as masks, used to minimize exposure to a communicable disease during a declared public health emergency. As written the bill does not require that an individual act unlawfully or have any intent to engage in unlawful behavior. It would seemingly apply broadly to a someone wearing a costume in a Halloween parade or a peaceful protester wearing a mask to avoid retaliation for their political views. If enacted, the bill would give law enforcement substantial discretion to arrest anyone wearing a mask or other face covering at a protest.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 May 2024.

Issue(s): Face Covering

return to map
New York

S 8646: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would create a new criminal offense that could cover unpermitted protests and demonstrations on streets, sidewalks, or near public buildings. According to the bill, a person participating in a protest without a permit who “obstructs” cars or pedestrians, or prevents people from entering or exiting buildings, commits a new offense of “aggravated disorderly conduct” if they intend “to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” or are “recklessly creating a risk thereof.” The offense would be a class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and $1,000. As written, an individual in a spontaneous protest that blocks a sidewalk, “recklessly creating a risk” of inconveniencing people, would be guilty of the offense. The bill would also add the offense to the underlying offenses that can be charged as a hate crime under New York law, and allow individuals arrested for the offense to be held for bail.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
New York

A 8951: "Domestic terrorism" offense for protesters who block traffic

Would create a new felony “domestic terrorism” offense that could apply to nonviolent protesters who block roads or sidewalks. Under the bill, a person commits “domestic terrorism” if they “act with the intent to cause the deliberate blocking” of a public road, bridge, or tunnel that interferes with traffic or public safety. Notably, the bill does not require that the person actually block a road, only that they act with that intent, so that even planning or otherwise facilitating a street protest that would interfere with traffic could be covered by the offense. Further, for the purpose of the bill, “public road” is defined broadly to include “every class of public road, square and place,” including driveways, alleys, and sidewalks. If enacted, individuals who attend or organize a sidewalk protest that interferes with pedestrian traffic could face felony charges and up to 7 years in prison.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 30 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Terrorism, Traffic Interference

return to map
New York

A 8334: CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS THAT DISTURB EVENTS OR MEETINGS

Would create a new serious misdemeanor offense, “disruption or disturbance of a lawful assembly,” that could cover protesters at private and public events. Under the bill, someone whose conduct “substantially impairs the ability to conduct” a lawful gathering, is intended to cause a disruption, and violates “the implicit customs or usage” or “explicit rules” of the meeting, commits a Class A misdemeanor—punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000. Covered events include groups of just two or more individuals who reserve a space by paying a fee or filing an application, and use it for a peaceful and lawful gathering. If adopted, a protester who interrupts a city council meeting or other gathering of officials, or a private speaking event, could face a year in jail.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Dec 2023.

return to map
Tennessee

SB 2570 / HB 2031: Heightened penalties for protesters who block streets and highways

Significantly increases the penalty for knowingly or recklessly obstructing a street, highway, “or other place used for the passage of vehicles or conveyances.” Instead of a Class A misdemeanor, as provided by prior law, the offense is now a Class D felony punishable by at least 2 and up to 12 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. As written, the law's felony offense can cover protesters who block a street or make passage "unreasonably inconvenient" even if there are no cars on it. The felony offense can also seemingly apply to protesters who block a driveway or alley, even temporarily. The law also creates a new civil cause of action, such that anyone who knowingly or recklessly blocks a street can additionally be sued for civil damages.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 23 Jan 2024; Approved by Senate 23 April 2024; Approved by House 23 April 2024; Signed by Governor Lee 9 May 2024

Issue(s): Civil Liability, Traffic Interference

return to map
Washington

HB 2358: New criminal penalties for protesters on highways

Would create two new crimes that could cover highway protesters and organizers of highway protests. Under the bill, someone in a group of four or more people who intentionally and unlawfully obstruct traffic on a state highway commits “obstructing highways,” a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. However, the “leader or organizer” of such a group commits a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and $10,000. The bill does not define "leader or organizer" or indicate how that role would be designated. A second offense, “obstructing highways in disregard for public safety,” would cover groups of four or more who intentionally obstruct traffic on a state highway and create a risk of injury or property damage, impede an ambulance, or refuse to disperse when ordered to do so. The offense is a Class C felony.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 15 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
Washington

HB 2358: Heightened penalties for highway protesters and organizers

Would introduce a new offense that could cover participants and organizers of protests on state highways. Under the bill, anyone in a group of four or more people who intentionally block vehicles by unlawfully standing, sitting, or walking on a highway would be guilty of “obstructing highways,” a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and $5,000. A “leader or organizer” of the group would be guilty of a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and $10,000. The bill does not define what constitutes a “leader” or “organizer.” Members of the group would also be guilty of a Class C felony if while blocking a highway they “create[] a risk” of property damage or injury, or if they refuse or fail to disperse after being ordered to do so. Individuals who have previous convictions of disorderly conduct, failure to disperse, obstructing highways, “or similar criminal behavior from other jurisdictions” would be required to pay a fine of at least $6,125 and serve a minimum 60-day sentence if they commit the offense of obstructing highways. Sponsors of the bill cited protests for a ceasefire in Gaza that blocked portions of an interstate.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 15 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Traffic Interference

return to map
Washington

SB 6160: Heightened penalties for protests that block traffic

Would create a new felony offense that could cover street protesters who obstruct traffic and refuse to disperse. Under current state law, if a group of four or more individuals includes anyone whose conduct creates a substantial risk of injury or substantial property damage, each member of the group commits a misdemeanor if law enforcement orders them to disperse and they refuse to do so. The bill would raise this offense to a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $10,000, if individuals refuse to disperse from a public road and are obstructing traffic. The bill would also increase the penalty for intentionally and unlawfully blocking vehicular or pedestrian traffic, from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, such that protesters who block a sidewalk could face up to 1 year in jail and $5,000.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
West Virginia

HB 5091: Heightened penalties for protesters near pipelines and other infrastructure

Increases the penalties and broaden offenses that could cover nonviolent protesters near pipelines and other infrastructure. The law amends West Virginia’s 2020 critical infrastructure law to remove the limitation that the law’s offenses could only occur on critical infrastructure property “if completely enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier that is obviously designed to exclude intruders, or if clearly marked with a sign or signs that.. indicate that entry is forbidden.” As a result, many more infrastructure sites are covered by the 2020 law’s trespass and tampering offenses, which carry significant penalties. The law also makes convictions for second and subsequent offenses of either the trespassing or tampering offenses a felony punishable by at least 2 and up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000-$15,000. The law increases the fine for a person who “vandalizes, defaces, or tampers with” equipment in a critical infrastructure facility that causes damage of more than $2,500, from $1,000-$5,000 to $3,000-$10,000. (As introduced, the bill made second convictions punishable by a minimum of 5 years and a fine of $100,000-$250,000, and increased the fine for tampering or vandalizing from $1,000-$5,000 to $25,000-$100,000.)

(See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 25 Jan 2024; Approved by House 6 February 2024; Approved by Senate 4 March 2024; Signed by Governor Justice 26 March 2024

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

return to map
West Virginia

HB 5446: New penalties for protesters on streets and sidewalks

Would create a new offense that could cover protesters who unlawfully “obstruct” a sidewalk, street, or “any other place used for the passage” of people or cars, or who disobey a law enforcement order to move from such a place. The bill defines “obstruct” to include “render[ing] passage unreasonably convenient.” The offense of "obstructing" a passageway would be a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and $500, but second and subsequent offenses would be a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and $1,000. As such, individuals who twice engage in a sidewalk protest without a permit could face felony charges and multiple years in prison.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 5 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
West Virginia

HB 5446: New penalties for protesters who block streets and sidewalks

Would create new penalties for protesters who block streets, sidewalks, and other public passageways. Under the bill, someone who obstructs a highway, street, sidewalk or “other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles, or conveyances,” whether alone or with others, commits a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. A second or subsequent offense would be a felony, punishable by up to 3 years in prison. The bill defines “obstruct” to include conduct that makes passage “unreasonably inconvenient.” As such, protesters on a sidewalk who were deemed to have made it “unreasonably inconvenient” for pedestrians to pass could face jail terms.   

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 5 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
West Virginia

HB 4994: Potential "terrorism" charges for nonviolent protesters

Would create several new, sweeping “terrorism” offenses that could cover nonviolent protesters. One new offense, “terrorist violent mass action,” is defined to include “violent protests” and “riots” that “appear intended” to coerce or intimidate groups, governments, or societies. The bill provides that participation in a “terrorist violent mass action” constitutes an “terrorist act,” and any entity that uses such actions “to advance its agenda” is a “terrorist group.” “Violent protest” is not defined in the bill or elsewhere in the law, nor does the bill require that a person individually commit any act of violence or property damage to be culpable of “terrorist violent mass action.” As such, someone who peacefully participates in a nonviolent but rowdy protest where a few individuals commit property damage could conceivably face “terrorism” charges. Likewise, a nonprofit group involved in organizing or supporting such a protest “to advance its agenda” could be deemed a “terrorist organization” under the bill. Individuals and organizations not directly involved in such a protest could also face felony “terrorism” charges for providing protesters with “material support”—broadly defined by the bill as “any property, tangible or intangible, or service.” The bill also creates a new felony “terrorism” offense for “actions… taken for political reasons to bar other persons from exercising their freedom of movement, via foot or any other conveyance.” As defined, that could cover a large, peaceful march that even temporarily stops traffic. Meanwhile, the bill provides complete immunity for people who “injure perpetrators or supporters of perpetrators” while attempting to “escape” such “terrorism.” This provision would seem to eliminate consequences for acts of violence against protesters by people whose movement has been blocked by a protest, including drivers who hit protesters with their cars. The bill also creates new felony “threatening terrorism” offenses for a person or group that "for political reasons blockades property containing critical infrastructure,” or that “trespasses for political reasons onto property containing critical infrastructure.” As such, nonviolent protesters who block a road to a pipeline or enter onto pipeline property could face “threatening terrorism” charges, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill is largely similar to HB 2916, proposed in the 2023 session.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 22 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Driver Immunity, Infrastructure, Riot, Terrorism, Traffic Interference, Trespass

return to map

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