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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8 entries matching in provided filters in 6 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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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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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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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 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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For more information about the Tracker, contact Elly Page at EPage@icnl.org.