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)
Filter by:
Locations
Status
Issues
Date
Type

Locations

Status

Issues

Introduction Date

from

to

Type

or
X

4 entries matching in provided filters in 1 states.
Georgia

HB 289: Restrictive permitting requirements, and heightened penalties for "unlawful assembly," blocking traffic, and defacing property

Would prohibits assemblies on public property that have not received a permit, seemingly banning all spontaneous, First Amendment-protected assemblies. Local permitting processes for assemblies on public property would require applicants to provide contact information for "individuals responsible for managing and maintaining order during the event" as well as an "emergency plan" addressing the "security resources" the organizer has devoted to the event. The bill expands the definition of "unlawful assembly" to include "two or more persons who harass or intimidate another person within any public accommodation." "Harass or intimidate" is not defined, meaning a boisterous protest in a public park or a university could potentially be deemed an "unlawful assembly." The bill would also bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from receiving state or local employment benefits. The bill increases the penalty for purposefully or recklessly obstructing any street or highway to a felony, punishable by at least one and up to five years in prison, and a fine of at least $1,000 and not more than $5,000, if the person convicted is part of an "unlawful assembly" and refuses an order of a police officer to remove an obstruction. The bill creates a new offense of "defacing, defiling, or abusing contemptuously" a state-owned or maintained monument or other structure during an "unlawful assembly", which is punishable by a penalty of at least 1 year and up to 15 years in prison, or a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. As such, a protester who chalked a sidewalk near a monument during an assembly that was deemed to be "unlawful" could face up to 15 years in jail. Further, the bill expands the state's "racketeering" provision to include soliciting someone to commit "unlawful assembly" or "riot," which is a felony punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison. Finally, the bill makes the governing authorities of a county or municipality civilly liable if they intentionally interfere with the ability of a law enforcement agency to provide reasonable law enforcement protection during an "unlawful assembly" or "riot." These provisions make it more likely that cities will aggressively police constitutionally-protected protests out of fear of costly liability if they are later deemed to be an "unlawful assembly". ***Note: HB 289 was originally a bill about drivers license requirements. Following HB 289's passage by the House, the Senate substituted anti-protest provisions that were originally proposed as SB 171.*** (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 Feb 2021; Approved by House 26 February 2021

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

return to map
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: defeated / expired

Introduced 10 Apr 2017; Approved by Senate 24 Feb 2017; Approved by House 24 March 2017 without protest provisions

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

return to map
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

return to map
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

return to map

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