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)
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16 entries matching in provided filters in 11 states. Clear all filters
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

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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 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

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Florida

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

**Note: Provisions of HB1 related to the law's new definition of "riot" were preliminarily enjoined by a federal district judge on September 9, 2021, temporarily blocking enforcement of those provisions.**

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 may encourage violence against protesters by creating a new affirmative defense in civil lawsuits for personal injury, death, or property damage, such that a defendant can 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 "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 may 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

Introduces felony penalties for the offense of "riot," previously an aggravated misdemeanor, such that the offense is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $7,500. Preexisting 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 law also converts "unlawful assembly" from a simple to an aggravated misdemeanor. Preexisting 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 law, 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 law, 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 law 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 law 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 law 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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Missouri

SB 26: heightened penalties for blocking roads

Note: This bill received later amendments that removed entirely the provisions related to "unlawful traffic interference". Would criminalize protests that block traffic as "unlawful traffic interference" and provide for harsh penalties. Like SB 9, introduced in the 2020 session, the bill would criminalize a person's intentional blocking of traffic on a public street or highway, whether with her body or an object, as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. If the offense is repeated, or takes place on an interstate highway, it is a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in jail and a $10,000 fine. If the offense is committed while the person is part of an "unlawful assembly," it is a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Missouri law currently defines an "unlawful assembly" as a gathering of at least six people in order to violate a law with force or violence. The bill would broaden this definition to include a gathering of two or more people to violate any law, with or without force or violence. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 1 Dec 2020; Approved by Senate 25 February 2021; Approved by House 4 May 2021

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Montana

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

Heightens penalties for protests near oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure facilities," including those under construction. The law 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. The offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by 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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North Carolina

SB 300: Heightened penalties for "riot"

**Note: This bill was later amended to remove all riot provisions except the increased penalties** Would increase the penalty for engaging in a "riot," from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class H felony, punishable by 25 months in prison. If the "riot" resulted in property damage of over $1,500, or serious injury, anyone deemed to have engaged in the "riot" (regardless of their role in the damage or injury) could be convicted of a Class G felony, punishable by 31 months in prison. The bill would not alter North Carolina's broad definition of "riot," which does not require any actual violence or destructive activity. Under the bill, peaceful protesters in a group of three or more who present an "imminent threat of disorderly and violent conduct" that "creates a clear and present danger" of property damage or injury could face felony convictions and lengthy prison sentences. Note: A later amendment eliminated the proposed increase in penalty for engaging in a "riot." It also eliminated the proposal to make it a Class G felony for engaging in a riot that resulted in property damage over $1,500 or serious bodily injury. Instead, it replaced that proposal by making it a Class G felony if during the course of a riot a person caused over $1,500 in property damage or a Class F felony if the person during the course of a riot caused serious bodily injury or brandished a dangerous weapon or substance. It also clarified that "mere presence alone without an overt act" is not sufficient to sustain a conviction of rioting. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 15 Mar 2021; Approved by Senate 12 May 2021; Approved by House 18 August 2021; Signed by Governor Cooper 2 September 2021

Issue(s): Riot

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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

**Note: Portions of HB1674 were preliminarily enjoined by a federal district judge on October 27, 2021, temporarily blocking enforcement of the law's 1) penalties for protesters who obstruct traffic, and 2) penalties for organizations that "conspire" with someone who is convicted of certain protest-related offenses.**

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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Oklahoma

HB 2095: Racketeering penalties for those involved in "unlawful assemblies"

Adds "unlawful assemblies" to the offenses that can be prosecuted as "racketeering activity" under Oklahoma's RICO statute. As a result, an organization or individual found to have "attempted" or "conspired" with individuals to engage in or encourage a protest that is deemed an "unlawful assembly" can be prosecuted under RICO and subject to felony penalties. Oklahoma law broadly defines "unlawful assembly" to include a group of three or more people who gather without lawful authority in a manner "as is adapted to disturb the public peace." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 1 Feb 2021; Approved by House 8 March 2021; Approved by Senate 21 April 2021; Signed by Governor Stitt 28 April 2021

Issue(s): Conspiracy

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Tennessee

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

Expands the definition of "aggravated riot" and creates new mandatory minimum penalties for that offense. To be convicted of "riot" under 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 preexisting law, a person could be held liable for aggravated riot if they participated in a riot where someone was injured or substantial property damage occurred, even if the person did not commit any violence nor intended violence to occur. Under the law, a person may also be guilty of aggravated riot if they participated 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 law also 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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Tennessee

HB 8005/SB 8005: Heightened Penalties for "Inconvenient" Protests and Protest Camps on State Property

The law heightens penalties for certain offenses that could encompass conduct by peaceful protesters. The law heightens existing criminal penalties for blocking a street, sidewalk, or "any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances" from a Class C to a Class A misdemeanor. Accordingly, protesters who obstruct or make it "unreasonably inconvenient" to use a street or sidewalk could face up to one year in jail. The law likewise heightens penalties for the existing offense of "obstructing" or "interfering with" a lawful meeting, procession, or gathering, from a Class B to Class A misdemeanor. Protesters who intentionally "interfere with" a meeting of the legislature or other government officials, including by staging a loud protest, could therefore face up to one year in jail. The law also targets protest encampments on the grounds of the Capitol and other areas by broadening the definition of "camping," and heightening penalties for camping on state property. As such, protesters who use or place any "piece of furniture," shelter, or structure on state property could be charged with a Class E felony, if they continue to do so 24 hours after receiving a warning. The offense would be punishable by up to six years in prison, a fine of $3,000, and restitution for any property damage. The law also amends Tennessee provisions on "riot," (which is defined broadly), including by requiring those convicted of "inciting" or "urging" a riot to pay restitution for any property damage incurred by the offense. When it was introduced, the legislation authorized the Tennessee Attorney General to intervene and prosecute offenses where there has been damage to state property, including those arising in the context of peaceful protests, if the district attorney declined to do so; however those provisions were removed prior to the law's enactment, and replaced with a requirement that district attorneys produce a report on such offenses and how they were dealt with. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 7 Aug 2020; Approved by House and Senate 12 August 2020; Signed by Governor Lee 20 August 2020

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

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Texas

HB 9: New Penalties for Protesters who Block Traffic

Heightens 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.