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
305 bills
49 enacted 20 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Jul. 5, 2024 (US Federal), Jul. 3, 2024 (Pennsylvania), Jul. 2, 2024 (Pennsylvania, US Federal)
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US Federal

HR 8883: Potential penalties for universities based on protest policies

Would make federal accreditation of colleges and universities—and thus their access to federal funds—contingent on the institution’s policies on responding to protests. Under the “No Tax Dollars for College Encampments Act of 2024,” universities would have to regularly disclose how they respond to campus “incidents of civil disturbance,” defined to include “a demonstration, riot, or strike,” and their accreditation would be linked to such policies and practices. The bill sponsor cited encampments and other campus demonstrations by protesters for Palestinian human rights as motivation for the bill.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 28 Jun 2024.

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

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US Federal

HR 8823: Withholding federal funds from states that do not punish street protesters

Would enable the federal government to withhold highway funding from states that allow protests on highways and other public roads. The bill would direct the Secretary of Transportation to withhold 10 percent of a state’s allocated federal highway funds each year, unless the Secretary could certify that the state had made “reasonable efforts” to prohibit individuals from “knowingly and recklessly obstructing” transportation on Federal-aid highways, which make up roughly one-quarter of all public roads in the U.S. Under the bill, the Secretary would have sole and unbounded discretion to make such a certification. The bill sponsor indicated that the bill is “a direct response to the increasing trend of unlawful traffic-obstructing protests.”

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 25 Jun 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference, Limit on Public Benefits

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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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US Federal

S 3492 / HR 6926: Federal penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would create federal penalties for protesters who block public roads and highways. The “Safe and Open Streets Act” would make it a federal crime to “in any way or degree, purposely obstruct, delay, or affect commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce by blocking a public road or highway.” The offense would also cover individuals who merely “attempt” or “conspire” to block a public road or highway. The offense would be punishable by an unspecified fine and up to 5 years in federal prison.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Dec 2023.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Traffic Interference

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US Federal

S 4825: Penalties for protesters on interstate highways

Would prohibit “deliberately delaying traffic,” “standing or approaching a motor vehicle,” or “endangering the safe movement of a motor vehicle” on an interstate highway “with the intent to obstruct the free, convenient, and normal use of the interstate highway.” The new federal offense would be punishable by up to $10,000 and 15 years in prison—a far harsher penalty than is the case under many states' laws, which generally already criminalize walking or standing on the highway. The bill provides an exception for “any lawful activity” authorized by federal, state, or local law. However it could still seemingly cover far more than “blocking” the interstate, including a peaceful protest on the shoulder of an interstate or a convoy-style, driving protest that slowed down traffic.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 13 Sep 2022.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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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: defeated / expired

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: defeated / expired

Introduced 13 Jan 2021.

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

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US Federal

HR 8117: 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. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 28 Aug 2020.

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

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US Federal

S 4424: Withhold Federal Funding for Failure to Prosecute Destructive Protest Activities

Would empower the U.S. Attorney General to withhold up to 10% of select federal funding from a state prosecutor's office, district attorney's office, or state attorney general office, if the U.S. Attorney General determines that the office has "abused the use of prosecutorial discretion by failing to prosecute crimes stemming from riots or other violent or destructive protest activities." Many riot statutes in the U.S. are broadly worded and can encompass non-violent protest activity. In the past, peaceful protesters have been prosecuted under these statutes. This bill could encourage an aggressive interpretation of riot statutes as well as other laws that could be used against peaceful demonstrators. On September 17, 2020, HR 8301 was introduced in the House of Representatives, which has nearly identical language to S 4424. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 4 Aug 2020.

Issue(s): Riot

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US Federal

S 4266 / HR 7786: Withhold Federal Funding for Failure to Either Prosecute or Properly Police a Riot

Would empower the U.S. Attorney General to withhold select federal funding if the Attorney General determines that a state or local government has a "custom or policy" of not prosecuting an individual engaged in unlawful activity as part of a "riot" or if they decline to prosecute because the "unlawful activity is related to or associated with expression of speech protected by the First Amendment". The U.S. Attorney General can also withhold select federal funding if a senior official, governing body, or policy prohibits law enforcement from taking action that would prevent or mitigate physical injury or property depredation related to a riot. The U.S. Attorney General could withhold up to 25% of select federal funding or twice the monetary value of property damaged or physical injury caused by the failure of the state or local government to take "reasonable steps" to protect against damage and injury. The bill also would create liability for "a person with the lawful authority to direct a law enforcement agency" to prohibit law enforcement from taking action that would prevent or materially mitigate significant injury or property destruction related to a riot. The bill defines "riot" using the broad federal definition. Such broadly worded riot provisions have been used to prosecute peaceful protesters in the past. This bill may pressure law enforcement to police assemblies aggressively to ensure that their policing practices are not second-guessed by the federal government resulting in loss of funding or because doing otherwise might open them up to civil litigation. The bill could also lead to the aggressive interpretation of riot statutes against peaceful protesters by prosecutors so as not to risk losing federal funding. 

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 22 Jul 2020.

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

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US Federal

DOT Legislative Proposal: New federal criminal penalties for protests near pipelines

In its proposed congressional reauthorization of pipeline safety programs, the Department of Transportation included expanded criminal penalties that could be applied to protests near gas and oil pipelines. The proposal would newly criminalize under federal law "vandalizing, tampering with, impeding the operation of, disrupting the operation of, or inhibiting the operation of" a pipeline or a pipeline construction site. The offense would be punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and/or a steep fine: up to $250,000 for an individual, or $500,000 for an organization. Any "attempt" or "conspiracy" to commit the offense would likewise be subject to a 20-year prison sentence. Accordingly, individuals as well as organizations that participate in a protest or engage in the planning of a protest deemed to "inhibit" a pipeline construction site could face lengthy prison sentences and/or steep fines. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 3 Jun 2019.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Infrastructure

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US Federal

HR 6054: Harsh penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

The "Unmask Antifa Act of 2018" 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." The name of the bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Daniel Donovan and supported by Reps. Peter King, Ted Budd, and Paul Gosar, refers to the leftist anti-Fascist movement, some members of which have worn masks during protests. The bill expired with the close of the 115th Congress on January 3, 2019. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 8 Jun 2018.

Issue(s): Face Covering

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