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
255 bills
39 enacted 11 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Jan. 30, 2023 (Minnesota), Jan. 26, 2023 (New York), Jan. 24, 2023 (West Virginia)
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West Virginia

HB 2916: Potential "terrorism" charges for nonviolent protests

Would create two new, sweeping “terrorism” offenses that could cover nonviolent protesters. One new offense, “terrorist violent mass action,” is defined to include “violent protests” and “riots” that “appear intended” to coerce or intimidate groups, governments, or societies. The bill provides that “any person or group that participates” in such an action commits “terrorism.” “Violent protest” is not defined in the bill or elsewhere in the law, nor does the bill require that a person individually commit any act of violence or property damage to be culpable. As such, someone who peacefully participates in a nonviolent but rowdy protest where a few individuals commit property damage could conceivably face felony charges for engaging in a “terrorist violent mass action.” Likewise, a nonprofit group involved in organizing or supporting such a protest could be deemed a “terrorist organization” under the bill. Individuals and organizations not directly involved in such a protest could also face felony “terrorism” charges for providing protesters with “material support”--broadly defined by the bill as “any property, tangible or intangible, or service.” The bill also creates a new “terrorism” offense for “actions… taken for political reasons to bar other persons from exercising their freedom of movement, via foot or any other conveyance.” As defined, that could cover a large, peaceful march that even temporarily stops traffic; under the bill, participants in such a march could face charges of “unlawful restraint, kidnapping, and terrorism.” Meanwhile, the bill provides complete immunity for people who “injure perpetrators or supporters of perpetrators” while attempting to “escape” such “unlawful restraint, kidnapping, and terrorism.” This provision would seem to eliminate consequences for acts of violence against protesters by people whose movement has been blocked by a protest, including drivers who hit protesters with their cars. Additionally, under the bill, any person or group that conducts “a deliberate attack” on “critical infrastructure” also commits “terrorism.” “Attack” is not defined or limited, for instance, to actions resulting in any actual damage, such that any large demonstration near infrastructure that authorities want to shut down could seemingly be deemed an “attack.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 23 Jan 2023.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Infrastructure, Security Costs, Riot, Terrorism, Traffic Interference

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