US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker follows state and federal legislation introduced since January 2017 that restricts the right to peaceful assembly. For more information, visit our Analysis of US Anti-Protest Bills page.

45 states have
considered
303 bills
44 enacted 32 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: May. 23, 2024 (West Virginia), May. 22, 2024 (Louisiana, Washington), May. 21, 2024 (US Federal)
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New York

S 9194 / A 10043: New criminal penalties for masked protesters

Would create two new crimes that could apply to masked protesters and people who support them. Under the bill, a person who is masked or “disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration,” who engages in a protest or other public assembly with other masked or disguised people, commits the offense of “deceptive wearing of a mask,” a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. The offense would likewise apply to anyone who “knowingly permits or aids” masked demonstrators who congregate in public. The offense does not require that an individual act unlawfully or have any intent to engage in unlawful behavior. A second offense, “aggravated deceptive wearing of a mask,” would apply to masked or disguised individuals engaged in a public assembly where property damage or injuries occur; the offense would be a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. (As drafted, the bill does not make clear whether an individual need personally cause the damage or injury, or merely be part of a group where such damage or injury occurs, to commit the offense.) The bill provides exemptions for masks or disguises worn for religious purposes, or in connection with a government-authorized “masquerade party or like entertainment.” If enacted, the bill would give law enforcement broad discretion to arrest individuals who wear masks or other disguise at a public protest, as well as anyone who seemed to be “aiding” them.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 3 May 2024.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Face Covering

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New York

A 10057: New criminal penalties for masked protesters

Would make it illegal to wear a mask or other disguise during a protest. The bill would create a new criminal violation that would apply to someone “involved in a lawful assembly, unlawful assembly, or riot” who wears a hood, mask, or other devise that disguises their face “so as to conceal” their identity. The bill’s only exception to the offense is for “personal protective equipment,” such as masks, used to minimize exposure to a communicable disease during a declared public health emergency. As written the bill does not require that an individual act unlawfully or have any intent to engage in unlawful behavior. It would seemingly apply broadly to a someone wearing a costume in a Halloween parade or a peaceful protester wearing a mask to avoid retaliation for their political views. If enacted, the bill would give law enforcement substantial discretion to arrest anyone wearing a mask or other face covering at a protest.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 2 May 2024.

Issue(s): Face Covering

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New York

S 8646: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would create a new criminal offense that could cover unpermitted protests and demonstrations on streets, sidewalks, or near public buildings. According to the bill, a person participating in a protest without a permit who “obstructs” cars or pedestrians, or prevents people from entering or exiting buildings, commits a new offense of “aggravated disorderly conduct” if they intend “to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” or are “recklessly creating a risk thereof.” The offense would be a class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and $1,000. As written, an individual in a spontaneous protest that blocks a sidewalk, “recklessly creating a risk” of inconveniencing people, would be guilty of the offense. The bill would also add the offense to the underlying offenses that can be charged as a hate crime under New York law, and allow individuals arrested for the offense to be held for bail.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 26 Feb 2024.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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New York

A 8951: "Domestic terrorism" offense for protesters who block traffic

Would create a new felony “domestic terrorism” offense that could apply to nonviolent protesters who block roads or sidewalks. Under the bill, a person commits “domestic terrorism” if they “act with the intent to cause the deliberate blocking” of a public road, bridge, or tunnel that interferes with traffic or public safety. Notably, the bill does not require that the person actually block a road, only that they act with that intent, so that even planning or otherwise facilitating a street protest that would interfere with traffic could be covered by the offense. Further, for the purpose of the bill, “public road” is defined broadly to include “every class of public road, square and place,” including driveways, alleys, and sidewalks. If enacted, individuals who attend or organize a sidewalk protest that interferes with pedestrian traffic could face felony charges and up to 7 years in prison.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 30 Jan 2024.

Issue(s): Terrorism, Traffic Interference

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New York

A 8334: CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS THAT DISTURB EVENTS OR MEETINGS

Would create a new serious misdemeanor offense, “disruption or disturbance of a lawful assembly,” that could cover protesters at private and public events. Under the bill, someone whose conduct “substantially impairs the ability to conduct” a lawful gathering, is intended to cause a disruption, and violates “the implicit customs or usage” or “explicit rules” of the meeting, commits a Class A misdemeanor—punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000. Covered events include groups of just two or more individuals who reserve a space by paying a fee or filing an application, and use it for a peaceful and lawful gathering. If adopted, a protester who interrupts a city council meeting or other gathering of officials, or a private speaking event, could face a year in jail.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 13 Dec 2023.

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New York

A 2309: Mandatory Sanctions for Campus Protesters

Would create new mandatory penalties that could be applied against nonviolent protesters at all state and city colleges and universities in New York. Under the bill, a student that "materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others" would face a minimum one week suspension for the first offense; a minimum two week suspension for a second offense; a minimum one semester suspension for a third offense; and expulsion for a fourth offense. As such, a student protester that was deemed to interrupt a speaker at an event would be required to be suspended.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 25 Jan 2023.

Issue(s): Campus Protests

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New York

A 8342: Mandatory Sanctions for Campus Protesters

Would create new mandatory penalties that could be applied against nonviolent protesters at all state and city colleges and universities in New York. Under the bill, a student that "materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others" would face a minimum one week suspension for the first offense; a minimum two week suspension for a second offense; a minimum one semester suspension for a third offense; and expulsion for a fourth offense. As such, a student protester that was deemed to interrupt a speaker at an event would be required to be suspended. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 20 Oct 2021.

Issue(s): Campus Protests

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New York

A 5121 / S 4989: Heightened penalties for "incitement to riot"

Would increase the penalty for incitement to riot from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison. Under current New York law, a person can be convicted of inciting a riot if "he urges ten or more persons to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of a kind likely to create public alarm." The bill does not define what "urges" could include; similar language has been found by courts to be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 11 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Riot

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New York

A 11069: Heightened Penalties for Riot and Incitement to Riot

Would enhance the penalties for first and second degree "riot" as well as "incitement to riot." Under New York Law, "incitement to riot" is broadly defined, and could cover a person or organization found to have "urged" a group of people to protest in a "tumultuous and violent" way. The bill would make the offense a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison, instead of a Class A misdemeanor.

(See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 7 Oct 2020.

Issue(s): Protest Supporters or Funders, Riot

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New York

A 10603: Heightened penalties for "riot" and "incitement to riot" by non-residents

Would heighten the penalties for "riot" and "incitement to riot" for defendants who are not New York residents, by creating two new criminal offenses. Under the bill, a non-resident who either commits "riot in the second degree" or "incitement to riot" is guilty of "travel to riot in the second degree," a Class E felony. Notably, New York law broadly defines "riot in the second degree" to include "tumultuous and violent conduct" with four or more people that "intentionally or recklessly...creates a grave risk of causing public alarm." A person is guilty of "incitement to riot" under New York law if he or she "urges" ten or more people "to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of a kind likely to create public alarm." The bill creates an additional Class D felony for non-residents who commit first-degree riot. The bill was proposed after widespread protests in New York City following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 5 Jun 2020.

Issue(s): Riot

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