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
288 bills
42 enacted 27 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Feb. 28, 2024 (Louisiana, New York), Feb. 23, 2024 (Florida), Feb. 22, 2024 (Alaska)
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Georgia

SB 359: Expanded grounds for RICO charges against protesters

Would enable Georgia’s RICO statute to cover far more protest-related activity—including even minor offenses like unlawfully posting protest signs or engaging in “disorderly conduct.” The bill would first amend Georgia law related to enhanced sentences for “crimes involving bias or prejudice.” It would expand the law’s current grounds for “bias”—intentional selection of a victim or group because of their “actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability”—to include “political affiliation or beliefs.” The bill would also amend the law’s list of offenses subject to enhanced sentencing to include a number of offenses related to civil disobedience and protest, including “disorderly conduct,” “loitering,” and unlawful “placement of posters, signs, and advertisements.” (Criminal trespass is already included as a covered offense.) The mandatory enhanced penalties include up to 1 year in jail and $5,000 for a covered misdemeanor, and at least 2 years in prison and $5,000 for felonies. As such, protesters who merely post signs on public property without authorization, that are deemed to target another group’s political beliefs, would face a year in jail. Further, the bill would amend Georgia’s RICO statute to make any such offense—or an attempt to commit, or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to commit such an offense—an offense that could be charged under RICO as a “pattern of racketeering activity.” Convictions under RICO carry severe penalties of up to 20 years in prison. The bill was introduced amidst RICO charges brought against dozens of protesters of Georgia’s planned police training facility, known as “Cop City.”

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 18 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Conspiracy

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Georgia

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)

Status: pending

Introduced 21 Feb 2023; Approved by House 1 March 2023

Issue(s): Riot

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Georgia

SB 171: Ban on spontaneous protests, heightened protest penalties, and an affirmative defense for drivers who hit protesters

Would prohibit protests on public property that have not received a permit, seemingly banning all spontaneous demonstrations. The bill requires local governments to create a permitting scheme for any protest, demonstration, or other assembly on public property. Street protests could face steep penalties under the bill, which makes it a felony to obstruct any street or highway as part of an "unlawful assembly" and refuse a police order to disperse. The offense would be punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The bill also creates an affirmative defense for someone who injures or kills a protester who was obstructing traffic as part of an “unlawful assembly.” The defendant would need to establish that they were attempting to flee the assembly under the “reasonable belief” that they had to flee to avoid an “imminent attack.” The bill expands the state’s “racketeering” law to include committing, attempting to commit, or soliciting someone else to commit “any crime” “involving unlawful assemblies,” which could sweep up organizations that are involved in supporting or organizing protests. Racketeering is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000. The bill creates a new felony offense of "defacing, defiling, or abusing contemptuously" a state-owned or maintained monument or other structure during an "unlawful assembly." The offense, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, could seemingly apply to a protester who chalked a sidewalk near a monument during an assembly that was deemed to be "unlawful." The bill makes the governing authorities of a county or municipality civilly liable if they are “grossly negligent by allowing the commission of violence against persons and property” during an assembly. The bill also makes local authorities civilly liable for interfering with the ability of law enforcement agencies to provide “reasonable law enforcement” protection during an “unlawful assembly” or “riot.” These provisions make it more likely that cities and counties will aggressively police constitutionally-protected assemblies out of fear they might otherwise face liability if any property damage occurs. As introduced, the bill expanded the definition of "unlawful assembly" to include "two or more persons who harass or intimidate another person within any public accommodation"; this was later replaced by "two or more persons who convey any threat that is severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and specifically directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action." The original bill also barred anyone convicted of "unlawful assembly" from receiving state or local employment benefits; these provisions were removed by amendment. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 11 Feb 2021; Approved by Senate 15 March 2022

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

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Georgia

SB 1: Expanding definition of "domestic terrorism"

Would have broadened the definition of "domestic terrorism" under Georgia law to potentially include demonstrations, boycotts, and other forms of protest and political expression. Under the bill, the previously high bar for committing domestic terrorism of "harm caused to a group of 10 or more individuals" is lowered to include causing harm to at least one individual or disabling "critical infrastructure." The new target, "critical infrastructure" is in turn very broadly defined to include "public or private systems, functions or assets, whether physical or virtual, vital to the security, governance, public health and safety, economy, or morale of this state or the United States." The bill also introduces a new provision targeting actions that have a political or ideological component, such that domestic terrorism would include an action intended to advance "any ideology or belief," whether held individually or as part of a group. Commission of domestic terrorism as defined by the bill would be a felony punishable by prison sentences ranging from five years to life. Given the broad language of the bill and extreme penalties involved, rights leaders feared that it was aimed to monitor, punish, and chill free speech activities including protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 10 Jan 2017; Approved by Senate 1 March 2017; Failed in House 28 March 2017

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Terrorism

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Georgia

SB 339: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

**SB 339 was signed into law following amendments that removed the most restrictive provisions.** As originally introduced, Senate Bill 339 would have created mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The introduced bill required public universities and community colleges to adopt a policy prohibiting and subjecting to sanction individuals involved in "protests or demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity" on campus. Additionally, the introduced bill required administrators to suspend for at least one year or expel any student who was twice "found responsible for infringing on the expressive rights of others," such as through a protest of a campus speaker. Amendments to the bill removed the provisions related to specific sanctions, prior to the bill's passage by the Senate. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 19 Jan 2018; Governor Deal signed it 8 May 2018

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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Georgia

SB 160: Heightened penalties for blocking traffic

As introduced and passed by the Georgia Senate, the "Back the Badge" bill included heightened penalties for intentionally or recklessly blocking "any highway, street, sidewalk, or other passage." Accordingly, protesters and demonstrators peacefully obstructing a public sidewalk could have been charged with a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, which under Georgia law is subject to up to a $5,000 fine or up to one year in jail. These provisions were removed, however, in the version of the bill approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the Governor on April 10, 2017. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 10 Apr 2017; Approved by Senate 24 Feb 2017; Approved by House 24 March 2017 without traffic-blocking provisions; Signed by Governor Deal 8 May 2017

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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