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 information about our methodology, click here. For more information and an analysis of this data, click here.

45 states have
considered
231 bills
36 enacted 52 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Sep. 7, 2021 (Alaska), Sep. 3, 2021 (North Carolina), Sep. 1, 2021 (North Carolina)
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10 entries matching in provided filters in 1 states.
Alabama

SB 152: New controls on protest locations and costs for protest organizers

Allows municipalities in Lauderdale County to control where protesters may gather, and charge them expansive fees for a permit. Under the law, municipalities may prohibit spontaneous protests in public forums by requiring protesters to obtain permits in certain circumstances, including if the demonstration "will involve more than a certain number of individuals participating, as established by the municipality." The law also allows municipalities to charge protester organizers a permit fee that includes "the actual cost of cleanup," "the actual cost of the use of law enforcement officers," and "any other actual administrative cost incurred by the municipality." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 21 Feb 2021; Approved by Senate 16 March 2021; Approved by House 13 April 2021; Signed by Governor Ivey 27 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Security Costs

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Alabama

HB 21: New Penalties for Protests Near Gas and Oil Pipelines

Would expand the definition of "critical infrastructure" under Alabama law to include pipelines and mining operations. Alabama law currently prohibits a person from unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure, defined as intentionally entering a posted area of critical infrastructure; the offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. The bill also expands the definition of "person" to include nonprofits creating the possibility that nonprofits who provide support or organizing for environmental protests near critical infrastructure where individuals then trespass could face organizational liability. Under the bill, if a person interrupts or interferes with the operations of critical infrastructure, they would additionally be guilty of a Class C felony, punishable by at least one and up to ten years in prison. The bill was pre-filed for the 2022 legislative session in September 2021. It is nearly identical to HB 516 introduced in 2021. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 Sep 2021; Pre-Filed for the 2022 Legislative Session

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Alabama

HB 2 / SB 3: EXPANDED DEFINITION OF "RIOT," "INCITEMENT TO RIOT," AND NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTERS WHO BLOCK TRAFFIC

Would redefine "riot" under Alabama law as an “assemblage of five or more” people which results in “conduct which creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons.” This definition is broad enough to cover many peaceful protests, as well as other gatherings, where law enforcement merely perceives a danger of property damage. Current Alabama law, by contrast, requires that a person individually engage in "violent conduct" as part of a group in order to have committed "riot." It is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $6,000 fine, to intentionally participate in a riot after receiving an order to disperse by law enforcement or when in violation of curfew. The bill provides that if any injuries or property damage exceeding $2500 occur, then anyone participating in the group is guilty of "aggravated riot," a new Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, even if that individual participant did not contribute to the injury or property damage. The bill expands the current definition of "incitement to riot" under Alabama law to include a person who "solicits, incites, funds, urges” or "otherwise aids or abets" another person to engage in a "riot." Given the bill's broad definition of "riot," the redefined definition of "incitement" could cover people only tangentially associated with a protest, such as individuals who hand out bottles of water to protesters. The bill requires anyone charged with "riot,” “inciting a riot,” or "aggravated riot" to be held without bail for up to 24 hours pending a hearing; it also adds mandatory minimum prison sentences for "riot," "aggravated riot," and "incitement to riot," and requires that anyone convicted pay restitution for any property damage incurred by the "riot" as well as “any and all other losses suffered by any victim.” The bill creates a new offense of unlawful traffic interference for anyone who intentionally or recklessly impedes traffic by walking, sitting, standing, kneeling, lying, or placing an object to impede the passage of a vehicle on a public or interstate highway. The first offense is a Class A misdemeanor and a second offence (or if property is damaged or someone is injured) is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail. Finally, the bill requires that any locality that defunds a law enforcement agency is no longer eligible for any type of state funding unless they can prove fiscal or practical necessity. This pre-filed bill for the 2022 legislative session is close to identical to the version of HB 445 that passed the House in March of 2021, but did not advance further in the 2021 legislative session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 28 Jun 2021; Pre-Filed for the 2022 Legislative Session

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Alabama

S 398: New penalties for "riot," "incitement to riot," and expanded "incitement to riot" definition

Would create a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days for rioting without the possibility of parole and would require that someone convicted of rioting pay restitution for any property damage or costs for medical treatment of anyone injured during a riot. In Alabama a riot is an assemblage of five or more persons resulting in conduct that creates an immediate danger to property or injury to person. As such, a person engaged in peaceful protest could be convicted of rioting if others around them are judged to have created a danger to persons or property. The bill would also expand the state's incitement to riot provision creating a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days for the crime of incitement to riot without the possibility of parole and would require that someone convicted of incitement pay restitution for any property damage or costs for medical treatment of anyone injured during a riot. Under Alabama law, incitement includes "urging" someone to riot, language that has been found unconstitutionally overbroad by federal courts. The bill would also expand incitement to include those who "fund" or otherwise aid or abet a person to engage in rioting. This language could create organizational liability for a group that organizes a peaceful protest that is later classified as a riot, even if no damage to property or violence occurs. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 20 Apr 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Riot

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Alabama

HB 516: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS NEAR GAS AND OIL PIPELINES

Would create new criminal penalties for protesters on pipeline property. The bill expands the definition of "critical infrastructure" under Alabama law to include pipelines and mining operations. Alabama law currently prohibits unauthorized entry onto critical infrastructure, defined as intentionally entering a posted area of critical infrastructure; the offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. Under the bill, if a person interrupts or interferes with the operations of critical infrastructure, they would additionally be guilty of a Class C felony, punishable by at least one and up to 10 years in prison. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Mar 2021.

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Alabama

HB 445: Expanded definition of "riot," "incitement to riot," and new penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would redefine "riot" under Alabama law as a "tumultuous disturbance" in public by five or more assembled people, acting with common intent, that creates a "grave danger" of substantial property damage or serious injury or that "substantially obstructs" a government function. This definition is broad enough to cover loud but peaceful protests, as well as raucous tailgate parties. Current Alabama law, by contrast, requires that a person individually engage in "violent conduct" as part of a group in order to have committed "riot." Knowingly participating in a "riot" is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. The bill provides that if any property damage or injuries occur, then anyone participating in the group is guilty of "aggravated riot," a new Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill expands the current definition of "incitement to riot" under Alabama law to include a person who "funds" or "otherwise aids or abets" another person to engage in a "riot." Given the bill's broad definition of "riot," the redefined definition of "incitement" could cover people only tangentially associated with a protest, such as individuals who hand out bottles of water to protesters. The bill creates a rebuttable presumption against granting bail to anyone charged with "riot" or "aggravated riot;" it also adds mandatory minimum prison sentences for "riot," "aggravated riot," and "incitement to riot," and requires that anyone convicted pay restitution for any property damage incurred by the "riot." The bill creates a new offense of unlawful traffic interference for anyone who, with the intent to impede traffic, walks, sits, or lies to block passage of a vehicle on a public or interstate highway. The first offense is a Class A misdemeanor and a second offence (or if property is damaged or someone is injured) is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 24 Feb 2021; Approved by House 18 March 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Alabama

SB 155: New justification for using deadly force near a "riot"

Would expand the instances in which a person may lawfully use deadly force, to include areas near a "riot." Under current Alabama law, a person may use deadly force on their property if they reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent someone from trespassing and either committing a violent act against the person, or arson. The bill would also allow a person to use deadly force to prevent trespass if there is an "active riot" within 500 feet of the premises and the person reasonably believes it is necessary to use such force to prevent criminal mischief or burglary. If enacted, the bill would increase the likelihood of violence if residents or business owners become alarmed by raucous but peaceful protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 2 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Riot, Trespass, Stand Your Ground

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Alabama

HB 133: Expanded definition of "riot" and "incitement to riot," and new penalties for protesters who deface monuments

Would redefine "riot" under Alabama law as a "tumultuous disturbance" in public by five or more assembled people, acting with common intent, that creates a "grave danger" of substantial property damage or serious injury or that "substantially obstructs" a government function. This definition is broad enough to cover loud but peaceful protests, as well as raucous tailgate parties. Current Alabama law, by contrast, requires that a person individually engage in "violent conduct" as part of a group in order to have committed "riot." Knowingly participating in a "riot" is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. The bill provides that if any property damage or injuries occur, then anyone participating in the group is guilty of "aggravated riot," a new Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill expands the current definition of "incitement to riot" under Alabama law to include a person who "funds" or "otherwise aids or abets" another person to engage in a "riot." Given the bill's broad definition of "riot," the redefined definition of "incitement" could cover people only tangentially associated with a protest, such as individuals who hand out bottles of water to protesters. The bill creates a rebuttable presumption against granting bail to anyone charged with "riot" or "aggravated riot;" it also adds mandatory minimum prison sentences for "riot," "aggravated riot," and "incitement to riot," and requires that anyone convicted pay restitution for any property damage incurred by the "riot." The bill would create a new Class D felony offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, for anyone who intentionally "mars, marks," or "defaces" a public monument, even if the marks are only "temporary." Doing so in the course of a "riot" or "unlawful assembly" would be a Class C felony. Under the bill, "riot," "aggravated riot," "incitement to riot," and "damaging a public monument," are all to be considered "violent offences" for the purpose of sentencing. Finally, the bill would disqualify anyone convicted of "riot," "aggravated riot," or "incitement to riot" from holding public office. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 26 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot

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Alabama

SB 45: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would amend existing state law to create new criminal penalties for conduct that may occur in the course of peaceful protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. Alabama already criminalizes trespass onto “critical infrastructure,” pursuant to law passed in 2016. The bill would expand the law's definition of “critical infrastructure” to include "pipelines," such that a person who trespasses onto pipeline property could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $6,000 fine. The bill would also create a new felony offense for any person who "injures," "interrupts or interferes with" critical infrastructure while trespassing. Such an act would be a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $15,000. HB 36 has similar provisions in the House and was introduced January 23, 2020. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 4 Feb 2020; Approved by Senate 12 March 2020

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Alabama

HB 94: Felony charges for disruptive protesters

Would make it a felony for a person to do something illegal to prevent "or attempt to prevent" a public speaking event. Accordingly, a protester who disrupts a public speech while committing another infraction (e.g. trespassing) could be charged with a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Critics argue that the bill provides for disproportionately harsh penalties, and that its broad language would enable authorities to enforce it selectively. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Jan 2018.

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