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.
Latest updates: May. 1, 2023 (Texas), Mar. 31, 2023 (North Carolina, Utah), Mar. 24, 2023 (Wisconsin)
7 entries matching in provided filters in 5 states. Clear all filters
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HB 2059: Enhanced penalties for blocking traffic and other conduct during "riot" or "unlawful assembly," and new "aggravated riot" and "mob intimidation" offenses
Creates a new Class 6 felony for interfering with the passage of traffic while engaged in a “riot,” “aggravated riot,” or “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. HB 2059 also broadens an existing Class 2 misdemeanor offense related to blocking traffic, to criminalize anyone who recklessly interferes with the “free, convenience and normal use” of any public thoroughfare. The bill creates a serious new felony, “aggravated riot,” that includes participation in a “riot” involving 25 people. The new offense would be a Class 3 felony, punishable by at least 2 and up to 25 years in prison. The bill would also increase the penalties for any unlawful conduct committed "in furtherance of a riot or an unlawful assembly." 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)
Introduced 9 Jan 2023.
Issue(s): Police Response, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability
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HB 505: Heightened penalties for "riot"
Would increase the penalty for “riot” from a misdemeanor to a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Georgia law defines “riot” to include just two people who do anything “in a violent and tumultuous manner,” as well as those who carry out an unlawful act of violence. As such, the law can be used to prosecute demonstrators who did not personally engage in any violence. The law also does not require that a person act with intent. Under the bill, a demonstrator who unintentionally acts in a way that authorities deem “violent and tumultuous” could face felony arrest and up to 20 years in prison. (See full text of bill here)
Introduced 21 Feb 2023; Approved by House 1 March 2023
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A 4577 / S 1783: 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. (See full text of bill here)
Introduced 22 Sep 2022.
Issue(s): Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference
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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)
Introduced 3 Feb 2022.
Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Stand Your Ground
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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)
Introduced 11 Jan 2022.
Issue(s): Riot, Traffic Interference
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SB 2593: New defense for police who injure protesters
Would create a new defense for police who recklessly injure or kill protesters with so-called “less lethal” projectile weapons. Under the bill, police could avoid prosecution for a range of charges—including assault; aggravated assault; injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual; and deadly conduct—for their use of projectile weapons like rubber bullets. The defense would apply as long as the officer was acting in the course of their official duties and did not intend to cause serious injury or death. As such, the bill would make it extremely difficult to convict an on-duty officer who recklessly blinds a child protester or kills an elderly demonstrator with a projectile weapon. Similar defenses in Texas’s Penal Code, by contrast, require that the person who used force must have had a reasonable belief that such force was necessary. By not including such a requirement, the bill could encourage police officers’ reckless use of “less lethal” projectile weapons against protesters and others. The bill is written to apply retroactively, and critics have pointed out that at the time of its introduction, 22 indicted police officers were awaiting trial in Texas based on their reckless use of “less lethal” projectile weapons during racial justice protests in 2020. (See full text of bill here)
Introduced 3 Apr 2023; Approved by Senate April 26, 2023
Issue(s): Police Response
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AB 70 / SB 96: BROAD NEW DEFINITION OF "RIOT" and related felony offenses
Would broadly define "riot" under Wisconsin law and create vague new felony offenses that could cover and chill peaceful protest activity. The bill defines a “riot” as a “public disturbance” involving an act of violence or the threat of violence by someone in a gathering of 3 or more people. No actual damage or injury need take place for a gathering to become a “riot,” only a “clear and present danger” of damage or injury. As such, a large street protest where a single participant threatens to push somebody could be deemed a "riot," with no actual violence or property damage being committed by anyone. The bill creates a Class I felony offense--punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine--for anyone who intentionally incites another “to commit a ‘riot.’” The bill defines “incite” as “to urge, promote, organize, encourage, or instigate other persons.” The incitement offense as drafted is not limited to urging actual violence against people or property, but could seemingly cover any expression of support for demonstrators in a crowd that had been deemed a “riot.” The bill also creates a Class H felony--punishable by up to 6 years in prison and $10,000--for someone who intentionally "commits an act of violence” while part of a “riot.” Yet “an act of violence” is vague and could cover an act of self-defense, non-criminal acts of violence against property--such as destroying one’s own protest sign--as well as minor unlawful violence against property like knocking over a trash can. (See full text of bill here)
Introduced 27 Feb 2023; Approved by Assembly 22 March 2023