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 24 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Jun. 13, 2024 (North Carolina), May. 30, 2024 (US Federal), May. 23, 2024 (West Virginia)
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27 entries matching in provided filters in 7 states and 1 federal. Clear all filters
US Federal

HR 8468: BARRING STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS FOR CAMPUS PROTESTERS

Would disqualify certain campus protesters from federal student loan forgiveness programs. Under the bill, a student or faculty member who is expelled or fired from a higher education institution for a protest-related reason is not eligible for any loan forgiveness program under federal law. Covered reasons for expulsion or firing comprise “creating a public disturbance,” “disorderly conduct,” “trespassing,” “hate crime,” and violating provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 related to discrimination. The bill’s sponsor cited pro-Palestine demonstrations on college campuses as motivation for the legislation.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 May 2024.

Issue(s): Campus Protests, Trespass, Limit on Public Benefits

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US Federal

S 4295: Barring federal funds for universities that don’t clear protest camps

Would bar federal funding for colleges and universities that fail to remove prolonged protest encampments. Under the “Encampments or Endowments Act,” if the Secretary of Education determined that a university permitted a protest encampment on campus for more than seven days, and camp participants had “attempted to interfere with a core function of the institution of higher education” or “obstructed the ingress or egress of students,” then the university would be ineligible to receive federal financial assistance for five years. The barred assistance would include institutional as well as student aid such as Pell grants and federal loans. Disqualified schools would have to provide grant-based aid to students to make up for the federal aid they would have otherwise received, and if they failed to do so, they would have to pay a tax equal to 50 percent of their endowment’s assets. The sponsor cited nationwide campus protests for Palestinian human rights as the motivation for the bill.  

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 May 2024.

Issue(s): Campus Protests, Camping, Limit on Public Benefits

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US Federal

S 4302: Barring federal financial aid for students convicted of protest-related offenses

Would prohibit federal financial aid for students who are convicted of protest-related offenses while participating in a campus protest. The prohibition on federal financial aid under the “No Higher education Assistance for Mobs of Antisemitic and terrorist Sympathizing Students (No HAMAS) Act" would apply to students who are convicted under federal or state law of trespassing, unlawful assembly, rioting, or damaging property while protesting at a college or university. Such students would be ineligible for any federal grant, loan, or work study assistance. The sponsor and cosponsors of the bill have pointed to nationwide campus protests for Palestinian human rights as their motivation, however the legislation could cover students who are convicted of nonviolent offenses such as trespass while demonstrating for any cause while on a college or university campus.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 9 May 2024.

Issue(s): Campus Protests, Riot, Trespass, Limit on Public Benefits

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US Federal

HR 8322: Revoking visas of foreign student protesters

Would revoke the F, J, or M student visas of students who are “arrested for rioting or unlawful protest,” or “arrested while establishing, participating in, or promoting an encampment” at an institute of higher education. The bill’s sponsor cited foreign students who have participated in campus protests for Palestinian human rights. 

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 8 May 2024.

Issue(s): Campus Protests, Riot, Camping

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US Federal

HR 8321: Mandatory community service in Gaza for campus protesters

Would require anyone convicted of “unlawful activity” on a college or university campus “after October 7, 2023,” to be “assigned” to the Gaza Strip “for the purpose of providing community service” for a minimum of six months. While the bill would apply to individuals convicted of “unlawful activity”, the sponsor indicated that the bill is targeting individuals involved in pro-Palestine demonstrations and encampments on college campuses.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 8 May 2024.

Issue(s): Campus Protests

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US Federal

HR 8248: Harsh penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would reintroduce the “Unmasking Antifa Act”--first introduced in 2018--which would make it a federal crime, subject to a lengthy prison sentence, to wear a mask or other disguise while protesting in a "threatening" or "intimidating" way. Under the act, anyone who "injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person" while "in disguise, including while wearing a mask" could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison as well as fined. The bill explicitly exempts police and other law enforcement agents, stating that "nothing in this section shall be construed so as to deter any law enforcement officer from lawfully carrying out the duties of his office." While the bill title refers to unmasking "Antifa," the sponsor of the reintroduced bill has focused on pro-Palestine protesters, many of whom have worn masks to protect themselves from doxxing and other forms of retaliation. 

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 May 2024.

Issue(s): Face Covering

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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, Limit on Public Benefits

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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.

Issue(s): Campus Protests

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Michigan

HB 5708: Mandatory penalties for "riot" and "incitement to riot"

Would impose steep, mandatory penalties for “riot” and “incitement to riot” offenses. Under the bill, an individual convicted of “riot” would face at least five years and up to life in prison, while one convicted of “incitement to riot” would face at least ten years and up to life in prison. Currant Michigan law provides for a sentence of “not more than” ten years for either offense, giving judges discretion to order more lenient sentences or avoid imprisonment altogether. Michigan law defines “riot” as a group of at least five people who “wrongfully engage in violent conduct” and “cause or create a serious risk of causing public terror or alarm.” “Inciting to riot” is defined as “intending to cause or to aid or abet” a “riot” and doing something that urges other people to engage in “unlawful force or violence, or the unlawful burning or destroying of property, or the unlawful interference” with law enforcement. Neither offense requires that actual unlawful violence, injury, or property damage occur.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 7 May 2024.

Issue(s): Riot

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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

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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

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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

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New York

S 9194 / A 10043: New criminal penalties for masked protesters

Would create two new crimes that could apply to masked protesters and people who support them. Under the bill, a person who is masked or “disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration,” who engages in a protest or other public assembly with other masked or disguised people, commits the offense of “deceptive wearing of a mask,” a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. The offense would likewise apply to anyone who “knowingly permits or aids” masked demonstrators who congregate in public. The offense does not require that an individual act unlawfully or have any intent to engage in unlawful behavior. A second offense, “aggravated deceptive wearing of a mask,” would apply to masked or disguised individuals engaged in a public assembly where property damage or injuries occur; the offense would be a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. (As drafted, the bill does not make clear whether an individual need personally cause the damage or injury, or merely be part of a group where such damage or injury occurs, to commit the offense.) The bill provides exemptions for masks or disguises worn for religious purposes, or in connection with a government-authorized “masquerade party or like entertainment.” If enacted, the bill would give law enforcement broad discretion to arrest individuals who wear masks or other disguise at a public protest, as well as anyone who seemed to be “aiding” them.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 May 2024.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Face Covering

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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

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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

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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

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North Carolina

HB 237: Heightened penalties for street protesters and masked protesters

Would increase penalties for protesters who block traffic and for masked protesters who break any law. The bill, which was proposed by the Senate Judiciary Committee as a substitute to HB 237, would make it a Class A1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 150 days in jail and a fine, to willfully impede traffic while participating in a demonstration intended to impede block traffic on a street or highway. Second and subsequent offenses would be a Class H felony, punishable by up to three years in prison. The bill would also allow organizers of street protests to be held civilly liable for any injury resulting from delays caused by the obstruction of an emergency vehicle. Additionally, the bill would amend North Carolina’s existing ban on wearing masks in public to remove the exemption for masks worn “for the purpose of ensuring the physical health or safety of the wearer or others,” and provide for enhanced sentencing of someone convicted of any offense if they were wearing a mask or other device that concealed their identity at the time. The bill’s sponsor cited recent protests on college campuses against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, where some protesters have worn masks.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 7 May 2024; Approved by Senate 15 May 2024; Approved by House 11 June 2024

Issue(s): Civil Liability, Face Covering, Traffic Interference

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Ohio

SB 267: New civil cause of action against protesters and supporters

Would make protesters and protest organizers civilly liable for damage and injury even if they did not personally cause it. Under the bill, someone whose property is damaged or who is injured as the result of a “riot” or “vandalism” offense could sue anyone who engaged in the offense. They could also sue “any person or organization who provided material support or resources with the intent that the material support or resources would be used to perpetuate” the offense. A civil suit under the bill could proceed regardless of whether the defendant was charged or convicted of committing “riot” or “vandalism,” and damages would include repairing the property or injury, as well as providing compensation for emotional distress, court costs, attorney’s fees, and “other reasonable expenses.” Ohio’s definition of “riot” requires only five people engaged in “disorderly conduct” with an unlawful purpose – to commit a misdemeanor, to impede a government function, or “hinder” the “orderly process” of administration or instruction at an educational institution. “Disorderly conduct” is likewise broadly defined as “recklessly caus[ing] inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another,” through means including “making unreasonable noise” or “hindering” movement of people on streets. As such, if the bill were enacted, participants in noisy or disruptive but nonviolent protests, as well as people and organizations that support them, could face expensive lawsuits. The bill also bars government officials from limiting law enforcement's authority to quell a "riot" or "vandalism," or to arrest or detain individuals involved in either offense.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 14 May 2024.

Issue(s): Civil Liability, Protest Supporters or Funders, Police Response, Riot

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