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
38 enacted 31 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Apr. 25, 2022 (Washington), Apr. 11, 2022 (Alabama), Apr. 7, 2022 (Georgia)
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33 entries matching in provided filters in 13 states and 1 federal. Clear all filters
US Federal

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Feb 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Limit on Public Benefits

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US Federal

HR 289: Stripping Pandemic Aid from Individuals Convicted of "Protest-Related" Federal Crimes

Would withdraw COVID-19 unemployment benefits from and impose new costs on anyone convicted of a federal offense related to the individual's conduct at and during a protest. Such a person would be ineligible for federal unemployment aid under the CARES Act (15 U.S.C. 9023) or any other Federal supplemental unemployment compensation during the COVID-19 public health emergency. If federal agents were involved in policing the protest at issue, the person who was convicted of a related federal offense would also have to pay the cost of the agents' policing activity, as determined by the court. Federal offenses include both violations of federal law, and violations of state law that occur on federal property. As such, the bill's withdrawal of benefits and imposition of new costs could apply to, e.g., a peaceful protester convicted of misdemeanor trespass for refusing to leave a demonstration on the steps of a federal courthouse or a sit-in at a congressional office. This bill is nearly identical to HB 8117 introduced in 2020. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Security Costs, Limit on Public Benefits

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Arizona

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Dec 2021; Prefiled for the 2022 session

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

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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: pending

Introduced 10 Jan 2022; Approved by House 2 March 2022; Approved by Senate 4 March 2022

Issue(s): Security Costs

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Illinois

SB 3814: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS NEAR CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

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

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Illinois

HB 3409: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters at public universities or community colleges in the state. The bill requires these public educational institutions to adopt a policy prohibiting and subjecting to sanction any "protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity." Additionally, the bill requires administrators to suspend for at least one year any student who is twice found to be responsible "for infringing on the expressive rights of others," such as through a protest of a campus speaker. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 22 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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Iowa

SSB 1140: Heightened penalties for "riot," "unlawful assembly," protests that block traffic, and defacing monuments

Would elevate "riot" from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $7,500 fine. 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 misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $6,250 fine. 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. The bill also creates a new felony offense for intentionally defacing or altering public property, "including a monument or statue." The offense is a Class D felony. The bill provides that a sentence for the offense must include restitution for any damage to the property. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2021.

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

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Iowa

HF 251: New penalties for protesters, including those who block roads, and immunity for drivers who injure them

Would create a new felony offense of "violent or disorderly assembly" that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined to include a group of seven or more people that creates an immediate danger of property damage or personal injury, or that "substantially obstructs" government functions or services. Joining or remaining part of a "violent or disorderly assembly" is a Class D felony, punishable by at least one and up to five years in prison. If an individual traveled from another state to participate in a "violent or disorderly assembly," it is a Class C felony, punishable by at least two and up to 10 years in prison. The bill provides for the termination of any state or local government employee who is convicted of engaging in a "violent or disorderly assembly." The bill raises the penalty for unauthorized obstruction of any street, sidewalk, highway, or other public way, with intent to prevent or hinder its use by others. The bill changes the offense from a minor to a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Under the bill, if the obstruction takes place during an "unlawful assembly," it is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail. Iowa law defines "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people, at least one of whom is acting violently, gathered with intent that at least one of them will commit an infraction. If the obstruction takes place during a "riot," it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Iowa defines "riot" as a group of three or more people assembled "in a violent manner" that "disturb[s]" other people, with any unlawful force by anyone in the group. The bill also creates new penalties for a person who performs any act "related to organizing, scheduling, or otherwise assembling" a group of people, knowing or with reason to know that they will intentionally obstruct a highway. Such a person is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail. The bill establishes civil immunity for a driver who injures someone participating in an unpermitted protest or demonstration who is blocking a street or highway, as long as the driver was exercising "due care." The bill would create a new felony offense for protesters who "damage," "deface," or otherwise "alter" any public property, including a public monument. "Deface" is not defined, and could include temporary chalk messages. The offense would be a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 27 Jan 2021.

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

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Iowa

HF 430: Heightened penalties for protesters who block streets and sidewalks

Would raise the penalty for protesters who obstruct any street, sidewalk, highway, or other public way, with intent to prevent or hinder its use by others. The bill changes the offense from a minor to a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Under the bill, if the obstruction takes place during an "unlawful assembly," it is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail. Iowa law defines "unlawful assembly" as a group of three or more people, at least one of whom is acting violently, gathered with intent that at least one of them will commit an infraction. If the obstruction takes place during a "riot," it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Iowa defines "riot" as a group of three or more people assembled "in a violent manner" that "disturb[s]" other people, with any unlawful force by anyone in the group. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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Louisiana

HB 101: New legal justification for killing protesters

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

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Feb 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Stand Your Ground

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Massachusetts

HB 1586: New penalties for protests that block roads

Would penalize "any person who intentionally blocks or prevents access to a public roadway or highway while protesting with the express purpose of preventing passage of others." Under the bill, anyone who intentionally blocked a public road in the course of a protest could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. This bill is near identical to HB 1428 introduced in 2019. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 28 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Missouri

HB 1914: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

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

Status: pending

Introduced 9 Dec 2021; Prefiled for the 2022 session

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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New Hampshire

HB 197: Legal defense for the use of deadly force against protesters

Would create a new legal justification for using deadly force against protesters. As introduced, the bill would expand New Hampshire's self-defense statutes to justify a person's use of deadly force against someone who they believe is "likely" to use "any unlawful force" while committing a "riot" against someone in a vehicle, house, or curtilage. The introduced bill justifies deadly force against someone who is "likely" to use "any" amount of force while committing "riot"--including against a third party. **Note: The bill was amended prior to its passage by the House, extending the self-defense justification to instances where deadly force against someone likely to use "any unlawful force in the commission of a felony against a person in a vehicle," rather than in the commission of a "riot".** (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Jan 2021; Approved by House 25 February 2021

Issue(s): Riot, Stand Your Ground

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New Jersey

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Feb 2022.

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

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New Jersey

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

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

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Jan 2022.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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New York

A 8342: Mandatory Sanctions for Campus Protesters

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

Status: pending

Introduced 20 Oct 2021.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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New York

A 5121 / S 4989: Heightened penalties for "incitement to riot"

Would increase the penalty for incitement to riot from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison. Under current New York law, a person can be convicted of inciting a riot if "he urges ten or more persons to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of a kind likely to create public alarm." The bill does not define what "urges" could include; similar language has been found by courts to be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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Ohio

HB 109: Heightened penalties for blocking traffic and other conduct during protests, and new liability for organizations involved in protests

Would heighten potential penalties for protesters who block traffic, by providing that engaging in "disorderly conduct" by blocking a public street or highway is a 3rd degree felony (instead of a minor misdemeanor) if it occurs during a "riot", or during a protest that was not granted a permit or one for which the scope of the permit was exceeded. Existing law defines "disorderly conduct" broadly, as "recklessly caus[ing] inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm," through means including "making unreasonable noise" or "hindering" movement of people on streets. "Riot" is also broadly defined under existing law as participating with four or more people in "disorderly conduct" with an unlawful purpose – to commit a misdemeanor, impede a government function, or interfere with lawful activities at an educational institution. The bill creates a new offense of "harassment in a place of public accommodation," defined as recklessly "harassing" or "intimidating" another at a place of public accommodation while engaged in a "riot". The offense is a 1st degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill creates a new offense for "riot vandalism," for "recklessly" causing physical harm to property that is owned or leased by a government entity, or that is a monument, tomb, or "similar structure." The new offense is a 5th degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. The bill also provides that someone who causes any property damage or injury while committing "riot" is guilty of a 4th degree felony (instead of a 1st degree misdemeanor), punishable by a year and a half in prison and a $5,000 fine. The bill would introduce new potential felony penalties and civil liability for individuals and organizations involved in funding or organizing protests that are deemed "riots". Under the bill, an organization whose associates engage in, attempt, or conspire to engage in providing "material support" to another to "plan, prepare, carry out, or aid" a "riot," or to "organize[] persons" to engage in a "riot," would be committing "corrupt activity," which could trigger 2nd degree felony charges, punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The organization could also be liable for property damage that resulted and the cost of law enforcement involved in investigating and prosecuting the offense. These provisions could affect organizations that are even tangentially involved in protest activity. Finally, the bill would allow police to sue individuals for injury or property loss resulting from the individual's role in an "unlawful assembly" or "riot". Organizations that provide "material support" to the individuals would also be civilly liable, for treble damages. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 16 Feb 2021; Approved by House 16 February 2022

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

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Ohio

HB 22: New penalties for protesters who "taunt" police

Would newly criminalize "taunting" an on-duty law enforcement officer with "reckless disregard" as to whether the taunting diverts the officer's attention. The bill does not define "taunt," and as such the offense could cover protected speech and chanting by protesters that even momentarily distracts law enforcement. Penalties for the offense, which the bill would include under the crime of "obstructing justice," range from 90 days in jail and a $750 fine, to more serious felony penalties. Note: Later amendments removed the "taunting" provision from the bill. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Feb 2021; Approved by House 25 June 2021

Issue(s): Police Response, Riot

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Ohio

SB 41: Charging protesters for the cost of property damage and the cost of law enforcement to respond to a protest

Would require that anyone convicted of "riot" or "aggravated riot" pay restitution for any property damage in addition to other penalties imposed. Additionally, the bill would allow law enforcement and other public agencies to seek reimbursement from a protester for all costs the agency incurred in responding to a "potential serious threat to public safety"defined to include a "validated report" report that two or more people are committing vandalism, "criminal mischief," or "aggravated riot." The agency could seek court-ordered reimbursement from anyone convicted of committing any misdemeanor or felony offense "in connection with" a "potential serious threat to public safety." In other words, the bill would allow a police department to seek compensation from a protester who was convicted of a simple misdemeanor, for the time spent by officers in responding to a report of "aggravated riot," even if no "aggravated riot" occurred. The bill would also create a new felony offense for vandalism on government property. Under the bill, intentionally "defacing, painting" or otherwise "marking upon" property owned, leased, or controlled by the government, even if only in a temporary manner, is a fifth degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Finally, the bill makes planning or "aiding in planning" vandalism of government property a new conspiracy offense" a first degree misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Security Costs, Riot

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Ohio

SB 16: New penalties for protesters who block traffic, and for protest funders and organizers

Would create new penalties for protests that took place on or spilled onto streets, sidewalks, or any other "public passage." The bill provides that it is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months year in jail and a $1,000 fine, to "impede" or render any public passage "impassable without unreasonable inconvenience" after being asked by an authority to stop. If the offense occurs as part of a "riot," it is a fifth degree felony, punishable by one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Ohio law defines "riot" to include engaging in "disorderly conduct" with four or more persons with the purpose of committing a misdemeanor, or to "hinder, impede, or obstruct a function of government" a definition broad enough to cover peaceful protests. The bill would also introduce new potential felony penalties and civil liability for individuals and organizations involved in funding or organizing protests that are deemed "riots." Under the bill, an organization whose associates engage in, attempt, or conspire to engage in providing "material support" to another to "plan, prepare, carry out, or aid" a "riot," or to "organize[] persons" to engage in a "riot," would be committing "corrupt activity," which could trigger second class felony charges, punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The organization could also be liable for property damage that resulted and the cost of law enforcement involved in investigating and prosecuting the offense. These provisions could affect organizations that are even tangentially involved in protest activity, as "material support" could cover donor funding to advocacy groups that engage in protests, or trainings for activists about peaceful protest tactics. Note: The version of the bill that passed the Senate removed the "material support" provisions and changed the obstruction of a public passage provision to require that the obstruction prevents an emergency vehicle from accessing a street and those obstructing the public passage have received and refused to obey a request to move. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Jan 2021; Approved by Senate 2 June 2021

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Oklahoma

SB 560: Immunity for drivers who hit protesters

Would provide civil and criminal immunity to a driver of a vehicle if they injure or kill someone with their vehicle if they are "surrounded by a person or persons engaged in unlawful activity who has blocked the road" and the driver is engaging in "a reasonable effort to escape from unlawful activity." Under this bill, a driver could potentially be immunized from all liability if they hit and kill a peaceful protester who is obstructing a road. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Feb 2021; Passed Senate 8 March 2021

Issue(s): Driver Immunity

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Oklahoma

SB 15: Mandatory restitution for property damage during unlawful assembly or riot

Would require courts to order individuals convicted of participation in a riot, incitement to riot, or participation in an unlawful assembly to pay restitution for any property damage or loss caused by the offense. Under the bill's provisions, individuals could be ordered to pay for damage that they did not personally cause, if a gathering they were part of was declared unlawful or a riot. Oklahoma law also broadly defines "riot" and "unlawful assembly," for instance giving broad discretion to authorities to label as an "unlawful assembly" a group of four or more people who gather without a permit "in such a manner as is adapted to disturb the public peace." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot

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Oklahoma

HB 1561: Steep penalties for obstructing traffic, and elimination of liability for drivers who hit protesters

Would create new felony penalties for protests that take place on or spill onto streets and highways. Under the bill, a person who "willfully obstructed" the "normal use" of a public street or highway is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to 2 years in prison. The bill defines "obstruct" to include rendering passage on the street or highway "unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous." The bill also shields from liability a driver who injures or kills someone while "fleeing from a riot," as long as they did so "unintentionally" and held a "reasonable belief" that they needed to flee to protect themselves. Such a driver cannot be held civilly or criminally liable. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Oklahoma

HB 1565: Mandatory dismissal of state employees convicted of protest offenses

The bill requires that employees of the state who are convicted of "incitement to riot" or "unlawful assembly" must be terminated from their job, and barred from future employment with any government entity. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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Oklahoma

HB 1578: New penalties for vandalism and "annoying" or "alarming" conduct during a "riot"

Would create a new felony offense for participating in a "riot" and "vandalizing" or "defacing" any structure owned by a government entity. The offense is punishable by at least 2 and up to 10 years in prison. The bill does not define "vandalize" or "deface." The bill also creates a new misdemeanor offense for intentionally causing "annoyance" or "alarm" at a public accommodation, during a "riot," through "tumultuous" or "threatening" behavior or "abusive language." The offense is punishable by a minimum of one year in jail. "Riot" is broadly defined under Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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Oklahoma

HB 1822: Restrictions on protests near the State Capitol

Would introduce new restrictions on "all demonstrations or events" in and around the buildings and grounds that make up Oklahoma's State Capitol Park complex, including the Capitol building itself. Within that zone, the bill prohibits "assembling" or "congregating" in a way that "obstruct[s]" sidewalks, walkways, or entrances or exits to buildings. This prohibition could be implemented to effectively bar protests that take place on or spill onto sidewalks or take place near any building entrances. The bill also prohibits the placement of tents or sleeping materials for the purpose remaining overnight. This would bar protesters from holding vigils and other 24-hour protests on Capitol grounds. The bill also prohibits affixing signs to any tree or structure; this would presumably include even protest signage that is affixed temporarily. Violation of the bill's prohibitions would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $500 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021; Approved by House 8 March 2021

Issue(s): Traffic Interference, Camping

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Oklahoma

HB 2094: Allowing lawsuits against the state for failure to aggressively respond to protests

Would waive the state's immunity from civil lawsuits for damage caused by protests in certain cases. Under the bill, the state and its subdivisions would be liable to claims for damages if they failed to take "reasonable action" to mitigate damage or injury resulting from a "riot" or "civil disobedience," or made a decision or established a policy "to allow" civil disobedience and riots. If enacted, the bill could encourage state and local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests and acts of civil disobedience, in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Riot, State Liability

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Oklahoma

HB 2096: Steep penalties for vandalism of public property during a protest

Would create a new offense that could cover nondestructive acts of expression during protests. The bill provides that anyone who participated in a "riot" and willfully "vandalized or defaced" a government-owned structure or building, is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. "Riot" is broadly defined under Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force." "Vandalize" and "deface" are not defined, and could cover chalk drawings or artwork posted with temporary adhesive. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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Oklahoma

HB 2215: Immunity for drivers who hit protesters and an expanded definition of "incitement to riot"

Would shield a driver who unintentionally injured or killed someone while "fleeing from a riot" if the driver had the "reasonable belief" that fleeing was necessary to avoid injury. If enacted, the bill would allow a driver to evade civil damages and criminal penalties for hitting and even killing a protester, as long as the injury or death was "unintended" and they had a "reasonable" fear of injury. The bill also substantially broadens the definition of "incitement to riot," a felony offense. Under the bill, a person who intends to aid or abet a "riot" and who in any way "urges" another to "interfere" with a police officer; "obstruct" the entrance to a private business; or "obstruct" any street or highway would be guilty of "incitement to riot" - felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. "Riot" is broadly defined under Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force." The terms "interfere" and "obstruct" are not defined, and as such the offense could include showing support for a peacefully protest that even temporarily pauses traffic. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021.

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

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Oklahoma

HB 2464: Heightened penalties for protests that block traffic

Would create a new felony offense for anyone who participates in a "riot" and intentionally "obstructs" traffic. The bill does not define "obstruct," nor does it limit the locations where such obstruction might take place. According to the bill, an individual in a protest that is deemed a "riot" who pauses traffic on a private road or in a public parking lot could be guilty of a felony and face up to 5 years in prison. "Riot" is broadly defined under Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference

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Oklahoma

SB 806: New penalties for protests that block traffic and organizations that support unlawful protests

Would newly add "riot" and "unlawful assembly" to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted for "racketeering activity" under Oklahom's RICO statute. "Racketeering" includes attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation. As such, under the bill, an organization or individual found to have "conspired" with others to engage in a protest that is deemed a "riot" or "unlawful assembly" could be prosecuted under RICO. Violations under the RICO statute are a felony, punishable by at least 10 years in prison and a steep fine. This provision would likely discourage non-profit organizations among others from engaging with or supporting protest organizers or participants, out of concern that they could be caught up in a RICO prosecution. The bill would also make it a misdemeanor to "block" or "restrict" traffic on any public highway or street "as a result of a riot" or "unlawful assembly." The offense would be punishable by up to one year in jail, a $500 fine, at least 40 hours of community service, and restitution for any property damage. The bill would also require that anyone convicted of participation in a "riot," "rout," or "unlawful assembly" pay restitution for any property damage resulting from the offense, and perform at least 40 hours of community service. The new penalties would apply to individuals who remained at the scene after being lawfully warned to disperse, and those who continued to participate when a lawful assembly became a "riot." "Riot" is broadly defined under Oklahoma law, to include a group of three or more people who make "any threat to use force;" "unlawful assembly" is likewise broadly defined, and includes a group of three or more who gather without lawful authority in a manner "as is adapted to disturb the public peace." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Jan 2021; Approved by Senate 8 March 2021

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

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South Carolina

HB 3491: New penalties for protesters, and a shield for those who commit violence against them

Would create new penalties for offenses that could encompass conduct by peaceful protesters. The bill newly criminalizes the blocking of a street, sidewalk, or "any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances." Accordingly, protesters who obstruct or make it "unreasonably inconvenient" to use a street or sidewalk could face up to three years in jail. The bill also targets protest encampments on the grounds outside government buildings, by broadly defining "camping," and prohibiting camping on state property that is not designated for camping. As such, protesters who use any "piece of furniture" or erect tarps or other shelters on state property could be charged with a felony, if they continue to do so 24 hours after receiving a warning. The bill amends South Carolina's law on "rioting" to require that anyone convicted of rioting - including "by being personally present [at], or by instigating, promoting, or aiding" a riot - be ordered to pay restitution "for any property damage or loss incurred as a result." Protesters could thus be liable for property damage that they did not cause, but were "present" for. Finally, the bill would create new criminal and civil immunity for a person who uses deadly force or points a firearm when "confronted by a mob," where "mob" is broadly defined. The provision may encourage the use of force and the incidence of violent confrontations in the context of protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 12 Jan 2021.

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

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