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)
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15 entries matching in provided filters in 1 states.
Missouri

HB 355: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create new potential penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure." The bill--which was substituted by a Missouri Senate committee for a House bill on sentencing guidelines--would heighten the penalties for trespass occuring on critical infrastructure property. Trespass with intent "to damage, destroy, vandalize, deface, [or] tamper with" a facility or intent to "impede or inhibit the operations" of a facility would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Protesters seeking to peacefully demonstrate against construction of a new pipeline, for instance, with the intent to disrupt that construction, could be prosecuted under the bill. The bill would also newly criminalize "damage" to critical infrastructure, broadly defined to include vandalism, and make it a Class C felony, punishable by 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The bill would also newly and broadly define "critical infrastructure" to include oil and gas pipelines, refineries, cell phone towers, and railroad tracks whether operational or under construction. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 18 Apr 2019; Approved by Senate as amended 17 May 2019; Approved by House 17 May 2019; Signed by Governor Parson on 11 July 2019

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Missouri

HB 1413: Limiting public employees' ability to picket

***Note: A Judge of the Circuit Court of St. Louis County found HB 1413 unconstitutional in its entirety and granted a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the law on January 27, 2020. ***

Bars certain public employees from picketing. The law requires that all labor agreements negotiated between a "public body" and a labor organization "shall expressly prohibit all strikes and picketing of any kind." The law further mandates that such agreements provide for the "immediate termination" of "any public employee who...pickets over any personnel matter." "Public body" is broadly defined in the law to include "the state of Missouri, or any officer, agency, department, bureau, division, board or commission of the state, or any other political subdivision or special district of or within the state"; accordingly, the law may apply to many labor agreements. While "picketing" is not defined under the law, Missouri Code elsewhere refers to "picketing or other organized protests" as "constitutionally protected activity," indicating that picketing as used in HB 1413 includes protests and demonstrations unrelated to labor strikes. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 3 Jan 2018; Approved by House 12 February 2018; approved by Senate 16 May 2018; Signed by Governor Greitens 1 June 2018

Issue(s): Strikes

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Missouri

HB 1441: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would increase the penalty for obstructing a public street or highway to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. A second offense would be a Class E felony, punishable by one to four years in prison. If a person commits "unlawful traffic interference" on an interstate highway, it is a Class E felony, punishable on the first offense by a suspended sentence of probation for five years, 100 hours of community service, and a fine of up to $750. The offense of traffic interference on any public street, highway, or interstate highway while part of an "unlawful assembly" is a class D felony. For a first offence the court shall impose a term of supervised probation of five years, one hundred hours of community service, and a fine of up to $1,000. An "unlawful assembly" is defined under the bill as two or more persons meeting with the purpose of violating any law, such as the prohibition on traffic interference. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 1 Mar 2021.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Missouri

SB 66: New penalties for protesters, and shields for those who commit violence against them

Would introduce a raft of new provisions affecting protesters, including civil immunity for drivers who injure protesters and a new affirmative defense for other acts of violence against protesters. The bill provides that a driver who injures someone who was "blocking traffic in a public right-of way while participating in a protest or demonstration" is not liable for damages, if the driver was "exercising due care." The bill would also expand Missouri's "Stand Your Ground" law, allowing a person to use deadly force against someone who is participating in an "unlawful assembly" and who unlawfully enters or attempts to enter private property that is owned or leased by the person. The bill introduces a series of new penalties for conduct associated with some protests: Protesters who block traffic could be charged with a new felony offense (up to 4 years in prison and a $10,000 fine) for intentionally walking, standing, sitting, kneeling, laying or placing an object in a manner that "blocks passage by a vehicle on any public street, highway, or interstate highway." The offense would be a Class D felony (7 years and $10,000) if committed "as part of an unlawful assembly." Under the bill, a person who "causes emotional distress to another person while participating in an unlawful assembly," is guilty of second-degree harassment, punishable in most cases as a Class E felony (4 years and $10,000). Under the bill, protesters who vandalized, defaced, or otherwise damaged public monuments or structures on public property could be charged with "institutional vandalism," a Class B felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Finally, the bill would create a new offense of "conspiring with others to cause or produce a riot or unlawful assembly," defined as knowingly providing payment or "other financial incentive" to six or more people to violate the Missouri laws against rioting or unlawful assembly. The new offense would be a Class E felony (4 years and $10,000). (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 1 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Riot, Traffic Interference, Trespass

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Missouri

HB 56: Eliminating civil and criminal liability for drivers who hit protesters

Would shield a driver from civil and criminal liability for injuring someone who was participating in an "unlawful or riotous assemblage," if the driver was fleeing from the "unlawful or riotous assemblage" and "reasonably believed" they were in danger. If enacted, the bill would allow a driver to evade civil damages and criminal penalties for intentionally hitting and even killing a protester, if the driver "reasonably believed" they were in any danger. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 1 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Riot

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Missouri

SB 9: Heightened penalties for blocking roads

Would criminalize protests that block traffic as "unlawful traffic interference" and provide for harsh penalties. Under the bill, a person's intentional blocking of traffic on a public street or highway, whether with her body or an object, is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. If the offense is repeated, or takes place on an interstate highway, it is a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in jail and a $10,000 fine. If the offense is committed while the person is part of an unlawful assembly, it is a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 27 Jul 2020.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Missouri

SB 293: New penalties for protests near critical infrastructure

Would heighten potential penalties for protests near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities, including those under construction. The bill creates the offense of "willful critical infrastructure trespass," defined as willfully entering property containing a critical infrastructure facility or the construction site of such a facility, without permission of the property's owner or lawful occupant. Under the bill, willful critical infrastructure trespass is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. A person who willfully trespasses with the intent to "impede or inhibit" the infrastructure facility or construction site is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,000. The bill also provides that an organization found to be a "conspirator" with anyone convicted of the above offenses is liable to a fine of ten times that levied on the individual. "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--"whether under construction or operational." (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 24 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure

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Missouri

HB 442: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would expand the state's 2015 "Campus Free Expression Act" to include provisions requiring universities to impose specific, mandatory penalties on certain campus protesters. The bill--identical to HB 2423, introduced in 2018--provides that any student who is twice found responsible for "infringing upon the expressive rights of others" should be suspended for at least one year or expelled. The bill also calls for a "range of disciplinary sanctions" to be imposed on anyone under the university's jurisdiction who "materially and substantially interferes with the free expression of others." As in HB 2423, HB 442 also waives Missouri's immunity from federal lawsuits related to the law, such that a speaker or student group who feels the law is insufficiently enforced could sue the state and/or university in federal or state court. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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Missouri

HB 288: Expanded definition for "unlawful assembly" and new penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would dramatically increase potential penalties for individuals who protest on public streets or highways, by expanding the definition of "unlawful assembly" and creating the crime of "unlawful traffic interference." The bill broadly defines an "unlawful assembly" as two or more people who meet "for the purpose of violating any of the criminal laws" of Missouri or the U.S. (Current Missouri law requires six people who assemble to violate criminal laws with force or violence.) The bill provides that commission of unlawful traffic interference while participating in an unlawful assembly is a Class D felony, which is subject to up to seven years in prison. Prefiled on December 18, 2018, in advance of the 2019 session, the bill is substantially the same as the expired bill HB 2145, but would make a first offense of unlawful traffic interference while participating in an unlawful assembly subject to a suspended sentence, with supervised probation for five years, 100 hours of community service, and a fine of up to $1,000. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 4 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Missouri

HB 2423: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would expand the state's 2015 "Campus Free Expression Act," which banned so-called campus "free speech zones," to include provisions requiring universities to impose specific, mandatory penalties on certain campus protesters. The bill provides that any student who is twice found responsible for "infringing upon the expressive rights of others" should be suspended for at least one year or expelled. The bill also calls for a "range of disciplinary sanctions" to be imposed on anyone under the university's jurisdiction who "materially and substantially interferes with the free expression of others." (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 8 Feb 2018.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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Missouri

HB 2145: Expanded definition for "unlawful assembly" and new penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would broadly define an "unlawful assembly" as two or more people who meet "for the purpose of violating any of the criminal laws" of Missouri or the U.S. The bill also creates a new crime of "unlawful traffic interference" that encompasses walking, sitting, standing, lying down, or placing an object on any public roadway with the intention of impeding traffic. The bill provides that commission of "unlawful traffic interference" while participating in an "unlawful assembly" is a Class D felony, which is subject to up to seven years in prison. The bill was originally introduced on February 2, 2017 as HB 826. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 17 Jan 2018.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Missouri

SB 813: Heightened penalties for protesters who block highways

Would impose steeper penalties, including jail time, for protesters who block highways or emergency medical vehicles. The bill makes the offense of "peace disturbance" by obstructing traffic--already a Class B misdemeanor under Missouri law--a Class A misdemeanor on first offense if occurring on an interstate highway or thruway of an emergency medical services vehicle. Commission of the offense is subject to an automatic fine of up to $5,000 or 7-30 days in jail. The bill would also make offenders civilly liable to any person harmed, for monetary damages. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 3 Jan 2018.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Missouri

HB 1259: Heightened penalties for blocking traffic

Would criminalize protests that block traffic as "unlawful traffic interference" and provide for harsh penalties. Under the bill, a person's intentional blocking of traffic on a public street or highway, whether with her body or an object, is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the offense is repeated, or takes place on an interstate highway, it may be charged as a Class E felony. If the offense is committed while the person is part of an "unlawful assembly" (defined as "two or more persons who meet for the purpose of violating any of the criminal laws" of Missouri or the US), it is a Class D felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 1 Dec 2017.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Missouri

HB 179: New penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would criminalize intentionally concealing one's identity while participating in an "unlawful assembly" or rioting. Under the bill, a person who intentionally conceals his or her identity "by the means of a robe, mask, or other disguise" while engaged in an unlawful assembly could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. The bill exempts identity-concealing coverings for the purposes of religion, safety, or medical needs. The Missouri legislature's website indicates that wearing a "hood" would also be included in criminalized coverings, although this language does not appear in the current wording of the bill. The bill expired with the end of the 2017 legislative session. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 4 Jan 2017.

Issue(s): Face Covering

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Missouri

SB 26: heightened penalties for blocking roads

Note: This bill received later amendments that removed entirely the provisions related to "unlawful traffic interference". Would criminalize protests that block traffic as "unlawful traffic interference" and provide for harsh penalties. Like SB 9, introduced in the 2020 session, the bill would criminalize a person's intentional blocking of traffic on a public street or highway, whether with her body or an object, as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. If the offense is repeated, or takes place on an interstate highway, it is a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in jail and a $10,000 fine. If the offense is committed while the person is part of an "unlawful assembly," it is a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Missouri law currently defines an "unlawful assembly" as a gathering of at least six people in order to violate a law with force or violence. The bill would broaden this definition to include a gathering of two or more people to violate any law, with or without force or violence. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted with improvements

Introduced 1 Dec 2020; Approved by Senate 25 February 2021; Approved by House 4 May 2021

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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