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
133 bills
25 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
19 pending 87 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Aug. 30, 2020 (US Federal), Aug. 24, 2020 (US Federal), Aug. 23, 2020 (Tennessee)
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Minnesota

HF 3668: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create new civil and criminal liability for protesters on infrastructure property as well as for any organization or entity that supports them. The bill would make someone who is convicted of or merely arrested for trespassing on property containing a critical public service facility, utility, or pipeline, civilly liable for any property damage arising out of the trespass. Under the bill, a person “or entity” that “recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with” someone who is convicted of or arrested for trespassing is also civilly liable for damages. The bill creates criminal liability for anyone who "intentionally recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with” someone to trespass, as well: If the person or entity fails to make a “reasonable effort” to prevent the trespass, and the offense is committed, they are guilty of a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The broad language used in the vicarious liability provisions could be construed to include aiding a protester by providing them with water or medical assistance. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 24 Feb 2020.

Issue(s): damage costs, conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Minnesota

HF 2966: New Penalties for Protests Near Oil and Gas Pipelines

Would create new civil and criminal liability for protesters on infrastructure property as well as civil liability for any organization or entity that supports them. The bill would make someone who trespasses on property containing a critical public service facility, utility, or pipeline liable for any damages to property that they commit while trespassing. Any person or entity that “knowingly recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, [or] conspires with” someone who trespasses or causes damage to property could be held “jointly and severably liable.” If the person trespasses with intent "to significantly impede or inhibit operation" of a covered facility, utility, or pipeline they are guilty of a felony and may be subject to three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. The phrase "significantly impede or inhibit" could be construed to encompass peaceful protests that block access to infrastructure, which under Minnesota law is broadly defined to include bus stations and parts of bridges. The broad language used in the joint and severable liability provision could be construed to include aiding a protester by providing them with water or medical assistance. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 31 Jan 2020.

Issue(s): conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Minnesota

SF 2011: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create new potential penalties for protests near pipelines, utilities, and "critical public service facilities." The bill criminalizes trespass onto such properties, including those under construction, as a gross misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Trespass “with the intent to disrupt the operation or provision of services” by the pipeline or utility, is a felony under the bill, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The bill also newly provides that a court may order anyone convicted of the above offenses to pay for “the costs and expenses resulting from the crime.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 4 Mar 2019.

Issue(s): damage costs, infrastructure, security costs, trespass

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Minnesota

HF 1383: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would create mandatory disciplinary sanctions that could be applied to peaceful protesters on college and university campuses. The bill provides that the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities must adopt a policy of sanctioning anyone under an institution's jurisdiction who "materially and substantially interferes with the free expression of others." According to the bill, the policy must include that any student who has twice been found guilty of "infringing the expressive rights of others"--for instance, through a protest--will be suspended for at least one year or expelled. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 18 Feb 2019.

Issue(s): campus speech

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Minnesota

HF 390: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would heighten potential penalties for protesters who intentionally disrupt traffic on a freeway or a roadway on airport property. The version of HF 390 introduced in the 2019-2020 session uses a definition of the offense that is similar to that of HF 390 from the 2017-2018 session, and would result in the same sanctions: Intentional traffic disruption on freeways or airport roadways would be a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The provisions would be added to Minnesota statutes on public nuisance, however, rather than those on roads and right-of-way. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 28 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Minnesota

SF 3463: New penalties for "critical infrastructure" protesters and their supporters

Would have created new civil liability for protesters on infrastructure property, as well as vicarious liability for any individual or organization who supported them. The bill would make someone who trespasses on property containing a "critical public service facility, utility, or pipeline" liable for any damages to persons or property, and any person or entity that "recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with them" vicariously liable for such damages. Under Minnesota law, a person who trespasses on infrastructure property is guilty of a gross misdemeanor; the bill would make anyone who "recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with" a trespasser likewise guilty of a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable by one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. If the person trespasses "with the intent to significantly disrupt the operation of or the provision of services" by the facility, the bill would make anyone who "recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with" the trespasser guilty of a felony and subject to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The phrase "significantly disrupt" could be construed to encompass peaceful protests that block access to infrastructure, for instance, which under Minnesota law is broadly defined to include bus stations and bridges. The broad terms used in the vicarious liability provisions could even be construed to include aiding a protester by providing them with water or medical assistance. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 12 Mar 2018; Approved by Senate 7 May 2018; Approved by House 19 May 2018; Vetoed by Governor Dayton 30 May 2018

Issue(s): damage costs, conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Minnesota

HF 1066/SF 918: Heightened penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would heighten penalties for any individual who “interferes with, obstructs, or renders dangerous for passage” any public highway or any right-of-way within airport property. According to the bill, such interference or obstruction is classified as a public nuisance and a gross misdemeanor, punishable by a $3,000 fine and one year of jail time. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Feb 2017.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Minnesota

HF 896/SF 803: Heightened penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would have increased penalties for protestors who intentionally obstruct highway or public roadway access to airports. Under the bill, such obstruction is classified as a gross misdemeanor rather than a misdemeanor. The bill, an omnibus public safety measure, incorporates language from two previously proposed bills aimed at heightening penalties on protesters. It would have allowed prosecutors to seek a $3,000 fine and one year of jail time for protesters intentionally blocking or interfering with traffic on a highway or public roadway within the boundaries of airport property. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Feb 2017; Vetoed by Governor Dayton 15 May 2017

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Minnesota

HF 322/SF 679: Charging protesters for the cost of responding to a protest

Would allow the state to sue protesters and charge them for the costs of policing a public assembly. The bill gives state agencies, cities, and counties the authority to bring civil lawsuits against people convicted of unlawful assembly or public nuisance. The lawsuits could seek the full cost of responding to the unlawful assembly, including officer time, law enforcement helicopters, and administrative expenses. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 2 Feb 2017.

Issue(s): security costs

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Minnesota

HF 390: Heightened penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would have increased penalties for protesters who intentionally obstruct highways or public roadway access to airports, or interfered with a transit operator. Under the bill, the offense of highway or airport access obstruction would have been a gross misdemeanor rather than a misdemeanor, punishable by a $3,000 fine and one year in jail. Provisions added to the bill during the 2018 session--following a high-profile incident in which protesters sat on light-rail tracks--would have broadened the offense of "unlawful interference with a transit operator" to include any act that "restricts passenger access to the transit vehicle." Penalties for that offense would likewise be increased to a $3,000 fine and one year in jail. In his message vetoing the bill, Governor Dayton cited the bill's vague provisions as well as the fact that the offenses were already prohibited and subject to sufficient sanctions under Minnesota law. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 23 Jan 2017; Approved by House 8 May 2018; Approved by Senate 14 May 2018; Vetoed by Governor Dayton 19 May 2018

Issue(s): traffic interference

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