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
246 bills
39 enacted 13 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Sep. 23, 2022 (New Jersey), Sep. 19, 2022 (US Federal), Jun. 2, 2022 (Florida)
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Mississippi

HB 1243: New Penalties for Protests Near Critical Infrastructure

Creates new potential penalties for protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The law establishes two new offenses: "critical infrastructure trespass," and "impeding critical infrastructure." Critical infrastructure trespass is defined in the law as knowingly entering onto infrastructure property without authorization or not leaving once notified to depart; the offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. "Impeding" critical infrastructure is defined to include "preventing legal access to" a critical infrastructure property or construction site. Under the law, such impediment is punishable by 7 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if the impediment results in $1,000 worth of damage or economic loss. If the damage or loss is less than $1,000, the offense is punishable by six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. The law also provides that an organization "that aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands or procures" someone to impede critical infrastructure is subject to a $100,000 fine and liable for a civil action by the infrastructure facility. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks-as well as "[a]ny site where the construction or improvement of any [referenced] facility... is ongoing." (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 19 Feb 2020; Approved by House 4 March 2020; Approved by Senate 15 June 2020; Signed by Governor 25 June 2020.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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Mississippi

HB 1106: Heightened penalties for protesters on streets and sidewalks

Would significantly increase the penalties for protesters who obstruct the "convenient and normal" use of streets and sidewalks by "impeding" or "hindering" traffic or passage thereon. Under current Mississippi law, individuals guilty of such obstruction may be charged with a $500 fine and 6 months in jail; the bill would make such obstruction punishable by a $1,500 fine and a year in jail. The bill would also introduce a mandatory 30-day jail sentence for second and subsequent offences, and a fine of up to $2,500. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 17 Jan 2022; Died in committee

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Mississippi

HB 24 / HB 613: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTORS WHO INTERFERE WITH TRAFFIC AND A LEGAL SHIELD FOR DRIVERS AND OTHERS WHO INJURE OR KILL PROTESTERS

Would create a vaguely defined new felony offense, "violent or disorderly assembly" that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined as conduct by seven or more assembled people that creates an "immediate danger of damage to property" or personal injury, or that "substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions or services." The offense would be punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The vagueness of the definition would allow authorities broad discretion to determine what constitutes, for instance, "creat[ing] an immediate danger" of property damage or injury. The bill includes new penalties for protests that interfere with traffic on roads and sidewalks, including a felony offense for "interfering with the regular flow of vehicular traffic" during a "violent or disorderly assembly." Under the bill, a driver who injures or kills someone who "obstructs or interferes with" traffic during an unpermitted protest or a "violent or disorderly assembly" is not criminally or civilly liable, as long as the driver did not do so "intentionally." The bill strips unemployment assistance from any person who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a number of protest-related offenses, including "violent or disorderly assembly," and requires that government employees found guilty of violating any of the bill's provisions be fired from their positions. The bill precludes civil lawsuits against the state by anyone convicted of "unlawfully participating in a riot, unlawful assembly, public demonstration, mob violence, or civil disobedience," if the claim arises out of that conduct. Further, the bill creates a new civil right of action against local governments by any "victim" of "violent or unlawful assembly" or other protest-related offenses, if the local government "failed or was grossly negligent" in policing a riot or "violent or disorderly assembly" - provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. The bill would newly add "violent or disorderly assembly" to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted for "racketeering activity" under Mississippi's RICO statute, such that an organization or individual found to have "conspired" with individuals to engage in a protest that is deemed a "violent or disorderly assembly" could be prosecuted under RICO, and subject to felony penalties. Finally, the bill would amend Mississippi's law on "justifiable homicide," creating a new legal justification for anyone who uses deadly force to "necessarily" defend their business "where there is looting, rioting" or other offenses created under the bill, including the defacing of public property. Identical language was introduced by another House member as HB 613. The text was first introduced as HB 83 in the 2021 session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 4 Jan 2022; Died in committee

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Limit on Public Benefits

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Mississippi

HB 763: New legal justification for killing people during protests

Would amend Mississippi's law on "justifiable homicide," creating a new legal justification for homicide when committed in defense of one's own business during a "riot" or "any violent protest." If enacted, the provisions could encourage deadly confrontations at protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 18 Jan 2021; Died in committee 2 February 2021

Issue(s): Riot, Stand Your Ground

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Mississippi

SB 2374: New penalties for protest organizers and protestors who fail to disperse, interfere with traffic, or "deface" monuments, and a legal shield for drivers who hit people at protests

Would create a vaguely defined new felony offense, "violent or disorderly assembly," that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined as either a) a group of 10 or more people who refuse to heed a lawful order to disperse; or b) a group of 10 or more people who create an "mmediate danger of damage to property" or personal injury, who "obstruct" law enforcement or other government services, and who "disturbs any person in the enjoyment of a legal right." Anyone who participates in, "incites," "organizes, promotes, encourages," "commits any act in furtherance of," or intentionally "aids or abets any person in inciting or participating in" a "violent or disorderly assembly" is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to 2 years in prison. The breadth and vagueness of the offence could cover, for instance, someone on social media whose post is deemed to have "encouraged" a crowd to stay and protest despite law enforcement's order to disperse. The bill includes new penalties for protests that interfere with traffic on roads and highways, including up to one year in jail for anyone who "maliciously" obstructs the "free, convenient, and normal use" of a street or highway during a protest that was not authorized by a permit, or a protest that was deemed a "violent or disorderly assembly." The bill would shield a driver who unintentionally injured or killed someone while trying to "escape a mob" during an unpermitted protest or a "violent or disorderly assembly." If enacted, those provisions would allow a driver to evade civil damages and criminal penalties for hitting and even killing a protester, as long as the injury or death was "unintended." The bill creates a new felony offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for anyone who "defaces" or "vandalizes" a monument during a "violent or disorderly assembly." The bill creates another offense, punishable by up to one year in jail, for anyone who "harasses" or "intimidate[s]" another person at a public accommodation during a "violent or disorderly assembly." The bill strips unemployment assistance from anyone convicted of the offenses described above; anyone convicted of the above offenses is also barred from holding state or local government employment. The bill would newly allow claims against local government entities and officials for the failure to protect individuals from injury or property damage caused by a riot or "violent or disorderly assembly," if the failure constitutes "gross negligence"; provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. Finally, the bill would newly add "violent or disorderly assembly" and all related offenses described above to the crimes that can be prosecuted for "racketeering activity" under Mississippi's RICO statute. As a result, an organization or individual found to have "conspired" with individuals to engage in or encourage a protest that is deemed a "violent or disorderly assembly" could be prosecuted under RICO, and subject to felony penalties. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 15 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Limit on Public Benefits

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Mississippi

SB 2283: New mandatory penalties for protesters who block traffic

As introduced, would create new, mandatory penalties for unpermitted protests that take place on or overflow into streets and highways. Under the introduced bill, anyone who "maliciously" obstructs the "free, convenient, and normal use" of a street or highway during a protest that was not authorized by a permit, is required to be jailed for at least 25 days (and up to one year), and pay at least $500 (and up to $1,500). (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 12 Jan 2021; Approved by Senate 4 February 2021; Died in committee 2 March 2021

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Mississippi

HB 83: New penalties for protestors who interfere with traffic and a legal shield for drivers and others who injure or kill protesters

Would create a vaguely defined new felony offense, "violent or disorderly assembly" that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined as conduct by seven or more assembled people that creates an "immediate danger of damage to property" or personal injury, or that "substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions or services." The offense would be punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The vagueness of the definition would allow authorities broad discretion to determine what constitutes, for instance, "creat[ing] an immediate danger" of property damage or injury. The bill includes new penalties for protests that interfere with traffic on roads and sidewalks, including a felony offense for "interfering with the regular flow of vehicular traffic" during a "violent or disorderly assembly." Under the bill, a driver who injures or kills someone who "obstructs or interferes with" traffic during an unpermitted protest or a "violent or disorderly assembly" is not criminally or civilly liable, as long as the driver did not do so "intentionally." The bill strips unemployment assistance from any person who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a number of protest-related offenses, including "violent or disorderly assembly," and requires that government employees found guilty of violating any of the bill's provisions be fired from their positions. The bill precludes civil lawsuits against the state by anyone convicted of "unlawfully participating in a riot, unlawful assembly, public demonstration, mob violence, or civil disobedience," if the claim arises out of that conduct. Further, the bill creates a new civil right of action against local governments by any "victim" of "violent or unlawful assembly" or other protest-related offenses, if the local government "failed or was grossly negligent" in policing a riot or "violent or disorderly assembly" - provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. The bill would newly add "violent or disorderly assembly" to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted for "racketeering activity" under Mississippi's RICO statute, such that an organization or individual found to have "conspired" with individuals to engage in a protest that is deemed a "violent or disorderly assembly" could be prosecuted under RICO, and subject to felony penalties. Finally, the bill would amend Mississippi's law on "justifiable homicide," creating a new legal justification for anyone who uses deadly force to "necessarily" defend their business "where there is looting, rioting" or other offenses created under the bill, including the defacing of public property. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 7 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, State Liability, Limit on Public Benefits

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Mississippi

SB 2474: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would create a new offense of "maliciously impeding traffic on a public road." According to the bill, the obstruction of a public road or highway by a person "sitting, standing, or lying" would be a misdemeanor punishable by a six-month prison sentence or a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Like SB 2730--the version of the bill introduced in the 2017-2018 session--SB 2474 both creates a new offense and expands the scope of its application to include blockages of public roads, not just highways. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 21 Jan 2019; Died in committee 5 February 2019

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Mississippi

SB 2754: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would create new potential penalties for protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill creates two new offenses: "critical infrastructure trespass," and "impeding critical infrastructure." Critical infrastructure trespass is defined in the bill as knowingly entering onto infrastructure property without authorization or not leaving once notified to depart; the bill classifies it as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. "Impeding" critical infrastructure is defined to include "preventing legal access to" a critical infrastructure property or construction site. Under the bill, such impediment is punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if the impediment results in $1,000 worth of damage or economic loss. If the damage or loss is less than $1,000, the offense is punishable by six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. The bill also provides that an organization "that aids, abets, solicits, compensates, hires, conspires with, commands or procures" someone to impede critical infrastructure is subject to a $100,000 fine and liable for a civil action by the infrastructure facility. "Critical infrastructure facility" is broadly defined and among many other things includes oil and gas pipelines, refineries, water treatment plants, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks, as well as "[a]ny site where the construction or improvement of any [referenced] facility... is ongoing." (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 21 Jan 2019; Approved by Senate 11 Feb 2019

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure

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Mississippi

SB 2730: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would have created the felony crime of "maliciously impeding traffic on a public road." The obstructing of a public road or highway by a person "sitting, standing, or lying" would be punishable by a five-year prison sentence or a fine of up to $10,000, or both. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 16 Jan 2017; Failed in senate committee 31 Jan 2017

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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