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 40 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Jun. 2, 2022 (Florida), Apr. 25, 2022 (Washington), Apr. 11, 2022 (Alabama)
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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: enacted

Introduced 10 Jan 2022; Approved by House 2 March 2022; Approved by Senate 4 March 2022; Approved by Governor DeSantis 26 May 2022

Issue(s): Security Costs

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Florida

HB 1/SB 484: Expanded definition of "riot" and new penalties for protesters

**Note: Provisions of HB1 related to the law's new definition of "riot" were preliminarily enjoined by a federal district judge on September 9, 2021, temporarily blocking enforcement of those provisions.**

Enlarges the legal definition of "riot," a 3rd degree felony, 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 new law, 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 2nd degree felony offense under the law. As such, large groups of protesters or ones that block traffic, even temporarily, could face up to 15 years in prison. Under the new law, "inciting" someone to participate in a riot is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by 5 years in prison. The law 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 a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. The law creates a new 3rd degree felony offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, for anyone who "willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or otherwise damages by any means" statues, flags, paintings, displays, or other "memorials" and the value of the damage is more than $200. As "deface" is not defined, protesters who apply paint or graffiti to a monument in the course of a peaceful protest could face up to 5 years in prison. The law may encourage violence against protesters by creating a new affirmative defense in civil lawsuits for personal injury, death, or property damage, such that a defendant can 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 law creates a new civil right of action against a municipal government that fails to "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 may encourage municipal governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 6 Jan 2021; Approved by House 26 March 2021; Approved by Senate 15 April 2021; Signed by Governor DeSantis 19 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Driver Immunity, Police Response, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Stand Your Ground

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Florida

HB 11/SB 1872: New Penalties for Disrupting Law Enforcement

Would make it a second-degree misdemeanor to stand within 30 feet of an officer performing a "legal duty" and to "directly or indirectly harass" the officer or "interrupt, disrupt, [or] hinder" them after being warned to not approach, punishable by up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine. The bill's language is so vague and broad that it could easily capture peaceful protest activity. For example, if a group of demonstrators were told not to further approach a police line they could face liability even if they obey the order if they remained within 30 feet of an officer and their chanting or sloganeering was deemed to "indirectly harass" the officer. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 19 Jul 2021; Pre-Filed for the 2022 Legislative Session; Indefinitely postponed and withdrawn

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Florida

SB 1096/HB 1419: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would have criminalized the obstruction of traffic during an unpermitted protest or demonstration as a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in prison and a $500 fine. The bill also eliminates civil liability for a driver who unintentionally injures or kills a protestor interfering with traffic during an unpermitted protest or demonstration. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 21 Feb 2017; Introduced 7 March 2017 in House; Failed in Senate committee 8 May 2017

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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