US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker, part of ICNL’s US Program, follows initiatives at the state and federal level since November 2016 that restrict the right to peaceful assembly. For information about our methodology, click here.

40 states have
considered
135 bills
25 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
21 pending 87 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Oct. 16, 2020 (New York), Oct. 7, 2020 (Michigan), Aug. 30, 2020 (US Federal)
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Kentucky

HB 44: New penalties for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure

Would create new potential criminal and civil penalties for protests around oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. Like HB 238, introduced in the 2019 session, HB 44 amends the definition of “key infrastructure assets" under Kentucky law to include “natural gas or petroleum pipelines.” Encompassed facilities and properties designated “key infrastructure assets” are not limited to areas that are fenced off or posted by “no entry” signs. Trespass onto "key infrastructure assets" is a Class B misdemeanor for the first offense (up to three months in jail) and a Class A misdemeanor for subsequent offenses (up to one year in jail). As introduced, the bill created a new offense for for a person who “intentionally or wantonly... tampers with, impedes, or inhibits operations of a key infrastructure asset.” This conduct would comprise “criminal mischief in the first degree”--a Class D felony, which under Kentucky law can be punished by up to five years in prison. A protest that “impeded” access to a pipeline by blocking a road, or one that “inhibited” the operation of a pipeline by blocking pipeline construction, could presumably fall under this definition. The introduced bill also provided that any "person" (which under Kentucky law could include an organization) may be civilly liable if they "knowingly compensate[] or remunerate[]" another person to commit criminal mischief on a key infrastructure asset. The damages include actual damages to personal or real property “caused by the crime” as well as punitive damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees.

**An amendment removed the language penalizing activity that "impeded" or "inhibited" operations of infrastructure like a pipeline. The enrolled version instead penalizes "tamper[ing] with the operations of a key infrastructure asset... in a manner that renders the operations harmful or dangerous." The amendment also narrowed vicarious civil liability anyone who "knowingly directs or causes a person" to commit the tampering offense.** (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 29 Aug 2019; Prefiled as BR 204 on 29 August 2019; Approved by House 10 February 2020; Approved by Senate 5 March 2020; Signed by Governor Beshear on 16 March 2020

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Kentucky

HB 238: New penalties for protests near pipelines and other infrastructure

Would create new potential criminal and civil penalties for protests around oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. The bill expands the definition of “key infrastructure assets" to include “natural gas or petroleum pipelines and related facilities.” Encompassed facilities and properties designated “key infrastructure assets” are not limited to areas that are fenced off or posted by “no entry” signs. Under the bill, a person who “intentionally… vandalizes, defaces… or impedes or inhibits” key infrastructure is guilty of “trespass upon key infrastructure assets in the first degree.” It is unclear whether a protest that “impeded” access to a pipeline by blocking a road, or one that “inhibited” the operation of a pipeline by blocking pipeline construction or repair equipment, would fall under this definition. The offense is categorized as a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. The bill also provides that an individual convicted of the offense may be civilly liable for “any damages to personal or real property while trespassing.” Finally, the bill provides that a person or “entity” that “compensates or remunerates a person for trespassing” may be held liable for damages, as well. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 5 Feb 2019; Approved by House 26 February 2019

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Kentucky

HB 53: Eliminating driver liability for hitting protesters

Would eliminate all liability for drivers who injure or kill a protester who is blocking traffic. The bill creates a new Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, for interfering with traffic on a public road during a protest for which a permit has not been granted. Under the bill, a motorist who injures or kills an individual who is interfering with traffic during such an event cannot be held criminally or civilly liable, unless the action was intentional. The bill, prefiled as BR 305 on October 24, 2017, also prohibits the wearing of face coverings and bearing of weapons near a public protest. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 2 Jan 2018.

Issue(s): driver immunity, face coverings, weapons

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Kentucky

BR 175: Criminalizing face coverings and weapons near protests

Would create new penalties for wearing masks or protective gear, or carrying a weapon near a public protest. According to the prefiled bill, an individual within 500 feet of a protest may not wear a mask, hood, helmet, or other facade that “covers any portion of his or her face.” Likewise, individuals within 500 feet of a protest may not wear protective gear such as shields or armor, nor carry a deadly or dangerous weapon. Under the bill, commission of either act comprises “disruption of a public protest,” punishable as a Class A misdemeanor with up to twelve months in jail and a $500 fine. BR 175 was ultimately withdrawn, but its provisions on "disruption of a public protest" were included in HB 53 at the beginning of the 2018 legislative session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 24 Aug 2017.

Issue(s): face coverings, weapons

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Kentucky

HB 488: Harsh penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would make it a class D felony to wear a mask, hood, or other device to conceal one's identity at a public protest, demonstration, or march in order to escape recognition when committing a crime. As such, a protester wearing a mask who committed a relatively minor crime, such as traffic interference, could face this offense, which is punishable by a minimum of one year and up to to five years in jail. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 2 Feb 2017.

Issue(s): face coverings

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