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 information about our methodology, click here. For more information and an analysis of this data, click here.

45 states have
considered
231 bills
36 enacted 52 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Sep. 7, 2021 (Alaska), Sep. 3, 2021 (North Carolina), Sep. 1, 2021 (North Carolina)
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10 entries matching in provided filters in 9 states.
Alabama

SB 152: New controls on protest locations and costs for protest organizers

Allows municipalities in Lauderdale County to control where protesters may gather, and charge them expansive fees for a permit. Under the law, municipalities may prohibit spontaneous protests in public forums by requiring protesters to obtain permits in certain circumstances, including if the demonstration "will involve more than a certain number of individuals participating, as established by the municipality." The law also allows municipalities to charge protester organizers a permit fee that includes "the actual cost of cleanup," "the actual cost of the use of law enforcement officers," and "any other actual administrative cost incurred by the municipality." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 21 Feb 2021; Approved by Senate 16 March 2021; Approved by House 13 April 2021; Signed by Governor Ivey 27 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Security Costs

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Arkansas

HB 1508: New penalties for protesters who block traffic, "riot", or damage monuments

As enacted, the law increases the penalty for obstructing a "public passage", from a Class C to a Class A misdemeanor. As such, an individual in a protest that makes a sidewalk "impassable to pedestrian... traffic" could face up to one year in jail. The law also creates a new mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for "rioting", and requires restitution for any injury or damage as a result of the offense. Rioting is defined in Arkansas to include engaging with two or more persons in "tumultuous" conduct that creates a "substantial risk" of "public alarm." The law requires that a person convicted of inciting a riot likewise pay restitution for any injury or damage as a result of the offense. The law provides that the state Attorney General may initiate an investigation into cases of riot, inciting riot, and obstructing a highway or other public passage. Finally, the law amends the definition of "act of terrorism" under Arkansas law, to include any act that causes "substantial damage" to a public "monument." It is not clear whether graffiti or other painting applied to a monument as part of a protest could comprise a terrorist act under the new law. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 22 Feb 2021; Approved by House 19 April 2021; Approved by Senate 22 April 2021; Signed by Governor Hutchinson 29 April 2021

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

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Arkansas

HB 1321: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Introduces harsh new penalties for protestors around gas and oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure." The law broadly defines "critical infrastructure" to include a range of posted or fenced-off areas associated with natural gas and crude oil production, storage, and distribution, including above and below ground pipelines as well as pipeline construction sites and equipment. Under the law, purposely entering or remaining on any "critical infrastructure" is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Separately, the law provides that trespassing on property outside of a city or town, regardless of whether it is posted, is a Class D felony if the property is "critical infrastructure." In nearly all other cases, trespass is a misdemeanor or minor violation. The law also creates a felony offense for anyone who purposely and unlawfully "causes damage" to critical infrastructure. Any amount of "damage," which the law does not define is a Class B felony under the law, punishable by 20 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Under the law, protesters who hold a peaceful sit-in at a pipeline construction site and paint protest slogans on construction material, for instance, could face lengthy prison sentences. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 27 Jan 2021; Approved by House 9 March 2021; Approved by Senate 1 April 2021; Signed by Governor Hutchinson 14 April 2021

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Florida

HB 1/SB 484: Expanded definition of "riot" and new penalties for protesters

Enlarges the legal definition of "riot," a 3rd degree felony, 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 new law, 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 2nd degree felony offense under the law. As such, large groups of protesters or ones that block traffic, even temporarily, could face up to 15 years in prison. Under the new law, "inciting" someone to participate in a riot is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by 5 years in prison. The law 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 a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. The law creates a new 3rd degree felony offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, for anyone who "willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or otherwise damages by any means" statues, flags, paintings, displays, or other "memorials" and the value of the damage is more than $200. As "deface" is not defined, protesters who apply paint or graffiti to a monument in the course of a peaceful protest could face up to 5 years in prison. The law could 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 law 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. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Jan 2021; Approved by House 26 March 2021; Approved by Senate 15 April 2021; Signed by Governor DeSantis 19 April 2021

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

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Iowa

SF 342: Heightened penalties for protesters convicted of "riot," "unlawful assembly," or blocking traffic, and immunity for drivers who injure them

Would elevate the penalties for "riot" from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $7,500. Iowa law defines "riot" as a group of three or more people assembled "in a violent manner," at least one of whom uses any unlawful force or violence against another person or causes property damage. The bill would also elevate "unlawful assembly," from a simple to an aggravated misdemeanor. Iowa law defines "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people, any of whom are acting "in a violent manner," and who intend that any of them will commit an offense. Under the bill, it is a serious (rather than simple) misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $1,875 fine, to "obstruct" a sidewalk, street, or "other public way" with the intent to hinder its use by others. If an individual obstructs a sidewalk or street while "present during an unlawful assembly," it is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by 2 years in jail and a $6,250 fine. If an individual obstructs a sidewalk or street while "present during a riot," it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $7,500 fine. Under the bill, a driver who injures someone who is participating in a "protest, demonstration, riot, or unlawful assembly," engaging in "disorderly conduct," and blocking traffic, is immune from civil liability as long as the driver was exercising "due care" and the protester did not have a permit to be in the street. The bill would also allow law enforcement who experience a physical or other injury while on duty to pursue civil damages from a person, group, or organization. Finally, the bill creates a new felony offense for "defacing" public property, "including a monument or statue." The offense, a Class D felony, is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a $7,500, and mandatory restitution for any property damage. This bill was introduced and passed by the Senate as SF 534, but passed by the House as an amendment to SF 342. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 1 Mar 2021; Approved by Senate 10 March 2021, Approved by House 14 April 2021, Signed by Governor 16 June 2021

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

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Kansas

SB 172: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Creates four new criminal offenses that could capture the conduct of peaceful protesters near pipelines. Under the law, entering or remaining in a "critical infrastructure" facility, or on property containing such a facility if it is posted with signs or fenced off, is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Trespassing with intent to "tamper with" a critical infrastructure facility, or to "impede or inhibit" its operations, is a Level 7 felony, punishable by approximately 2 years in prison. Actually, knowingly "tampering with" the facility is a Level 6 felony, punishable by approximately 3 years in prison, and doing so with the intent to impede or inhibit the facility's operations is a Level 5 felony, punishable by approximately 4 years in prison. The law also creates a broad new definition of critical infrastructure," which includes among many other things "a portion of any belowground or aboveground oil, gas, hazardous liquid or chemical pipeline" or any storage, processing, or distribution facility for crude oil or natural gas. When it was introduced, the law included new penalties for "defacing" and "vandalizing" critical infrastructure; civil liability for any person or "entity" that provided compensation to someone to commit the offenses described above; and added the trespass and damage offenses above to the underlying crimes that could be prosecuted under the state's RICO law. These provisions were removed prior to the law's enactment. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 8 Feb 2021; Approved by Senate 2 March 2021; Approved by House 30 March 2021; Signed by Governor Kelly 9 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Montana

HB 481: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would heighten penalties for protests near oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure facilities", including those under construction. The bill creates an offense of trespassing on critical infrastructure, defined as willfully and knowingly entering property containing a critical infrastructure facility that is posted or fenced. It is punishable by a misdemeanor of up to 6 months in jail or a $1,500 fine. If a person trespasses with the intent to willfully impede the facility's operations, or damage, deface, or tamper with facility equipment, the offense is a felony punishable by up to eighteen months in prison or a $4,500 fine. An organization that is found to be a conspirator in trespass on critical infrastructure is liable for fines that are ten times the amount authorized for the crime. A person who trespasses can be held liable for damages to property while trespassing, including damages to network performance or outage issues proximately caused by the trespass. An entity or person that compensates or provides consideration to someone for trespass may be held vicariously liable for damages committed by that person. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, railroad tracks, and telephone poles. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 18 Feb 2021; Approved by House 2 March 2021; Approved by Senate 16 April 2021; Governor Signed 14 May 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Oklahoma

HB 1674: Penalties for protesters who block traffic, immunity for drivers who hit protesters, and liability for organizations that work with protesters

Creates new penalties for protesters who obstruct traffic while participating in a "riot," and protects drivers who "unintentionally" hit them. Under the law, a person who participated in a "riot" and "obstructed" the "normal use" of a public street or highway, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, a $5,000 fine, and restitution for any property damage that occurs. The law defines "obstruct" to include rendering the street or highway "unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous" for cars' passage, including by "standing" on the street or highway. "Riot" is broadly defined under existing Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force." The new law also shields from liability a driver who injures or kills someone while "fleeing from a riot," as long as they did so "unintentionally," were "exercising due care," and held a "reasonable belief" that they needed to flee to protect themselves. Under the law, such a driver cannot be held civilly or criminally liable for the injuries or death they caused. Finally, the law provides that an organization found to have "conspired" with individuals who are found guilty of certain offenses; including "unlawful assembly," "riot," "incitement to riot," refusing to aid in the arrest of a "rioter," and remaining at the scene of a "riot" after being ordered to disperse will be fined ten times the maximum amount of fine authorized for the individual's offense. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 2 Feb 2021; Approved by House 10 March 2021; Approved by Senate 14 April 2021; Signed by Governor Stitt 21 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Tennessee

SB 451 / HB 881: Mandatory penalties for expanded aggravated riot offense

Would expand the definition of aggravated riot and create new mandatory minimum penalties for that offense. To be convicted of riot under current Tennessee law, a person only needs to knowingly gather with two or more people whose tumultuous and violent conduct creates "grave danger of substantial damage to property or serious bodily injury to persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental function." For instance, one could be held guilty of riot for merely joining a large protest in which there is isolated pushing, even if no one is injured. Under current law, a person commits aggravated riot if they participate in a riot and someone is injured or substantial property damage occurs, even if the person did not commit any violence or intend violence to occur. Under the proposed bill, a person would also be guilty of aggravated riot if they participate in a riot and either participated in exchange for compensation or "traveled from outside the state with the intent to commit a criminal offense." A "criminal offense" could include, for example, temporarily blocking a street as part of a protest. "Aggravated riot" is a Class E felony, which is punishable by up to 6 years in jail and a fine of $3,000; the bill introduces a mandatory minimum of at least 45 days of imprisonment. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 8 Feb 2021; Approved by Senate 11 March 2021; Approved by House 28 April 2021; Signed by Governor 13 May 2021

Issue(s): Riot

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Texas

HB 9: New Penalties for Protesters who Block Traffic

Would heighten existing penalties for anyone who "knowingly prevents the passage of an authorized emergency vehicle" if the vehicle "is operating the vehicle’s emergency audible or visual signals" from a Class B misdemeanor to a state jail felony. "Emergency vehicle" is broadly defined as "a municipal department or public service corporation emergency vehicle," a police or fire department vehicle, an ambulance, a vehicle of a blood or tissue bank, or a "private vehicle of an employee or volunteer of a county emergency management division." The law also requires that anyone convicted of preventing the passage of an authorized emergency vehicle must serve no less than 10 days of confinement even if the court grants community supervision to the defendant. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 25 Feb 2021; Approved by House 6 May 2021; Approved by Senate 22 May 2021; Signed by Governor 1 June 2021

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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