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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6 entries matching in provided filters in 1 states.
Arkansas

HB 1508: New penalties for protesters who block traffic, "riot", or damage monuments

As enacted, the law increases the penalty for obstructing a "public passage", from a Class C to a Class A misdemeanor. As such, an individual in a protest that makes a sidewalk "impassable to pedestrian... traffic" could face up to one year in jail. The law also creates a new mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for "rioting", and requires restitution for any injury or damage as a result of the offense. Rioting is defined in Arkansas to include engaging with two or more persons in "tumultuous" conduct that creates a "substantial risk" of "public alarm." The law requires that a person convicted of inciting a riot likewise pay restitution for any injury or damage as a result of the offense. The law provides that the state Attorney General may initiate an investigation into cases of riot, inciting riot, and obstructing a highway or other public passage. Finally, the law amends the definition of "act of terrorism" under Arkansas law, to include any act that causes "substantial damage" to a public "monument." It is not clear whether graffiti or other painting applied to a monument as part of a protest could comprise a terrorist act under the new law. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 22 Feb 2021; Approved by House 19 April 2021; Approved by Senate 22 April 2021; Signed by Governor Hutchinson 29 April 2021

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Riot, Terrorism, Traffic Interference

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Arkansas

HB 1321: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Introduces harsh new penalties for protestors around gas and oil pipelines and other "critical infrastructure." The law broadly defines "critical infrastructure" to include a range of posted or fenced-off areas associated with natural gas and crude oil production, storage, and distribution, including above and below ground pipelines as well as pipeline construction sites and equipment. Under the law, purposely entering or remaining on any "critical infrastructure" is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Separately, the law provides that trespassing on property outside of a city or town, regardless of whether it is posted, is a Class D felony if the property is "critical infrastructure." In nearly all other cases, trespass is a misdemeanor or minor violation. The law also creates a felony offense for anyone who purposely and unlawfully "causes damage" to critical infrastructure. Any amount of "damage," which the law does not define is a Class B felony under the law, punishable by 20 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Under the law, protesters who hold a peaceful sit-in at a pipeline construction site and paint protest slogans on construction material, for instance, could face lengthy prison sentences. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 27 Jan 2021; Approved by House 9 March 2021; Approved by Senate 1 April 2021; Signed by Governor Hutchinson 14 April 2021

Issue(s): Infrastructure, Trespass

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Arkansas

HB 1578: Expanded Civil Liability for Those Who Incite a Riot and Criminal Penalties for Obstructing First Responders

Creates a civil cause of action for a person who is injured or has property damaged as a "direct or indirect" result of a riot against a rioter or a person or entity who incites a riot. Under Arkansas law, both the riot and incitement to riot statute are broad, creating potential liability for protesters or organizations who are interpreted to have urged others to have engaged in tumultuous or violent conduct. The bill also makes it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, to knowingly obstruct or interfere with a first responder in providing medical services, or a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years, if the same is done purposefully. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 17 Feb 2017; Passed by House 2 March 2017; Passed by Senate 27 March 2017; Signed by Governor 6 April 2017.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Police Response, Riot, Traffic Interference

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Arkansas

HB 1898: Heightened penalties for protests that block roads

Would create the offense of "aggravated disorderly conduct," defined to include "recklessly creating a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm" by "obstruct[ing] the free use of public roads, streets, highways, airports, or other rights-of-way of travel." The offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 20 Mar 2019; Died on House Calendar at sine die adjournment 24 April 2019

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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Arkansas

SB 118: Criminal penalties for school and university campus protesters

Would create a new criminal sanction that could be applied to peaceful protesters on public university as well as high school grounds. The bill contains 17 broadly-worded "guarantees of free speech," including a provision that "a student shall not significantly obstruct the freedom of other speakers" to state their own views on campus. The bill provides that anyone who negligently violates any of the "rights" provided for in the bill is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which in Arkansas is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Accordingly, a student who was deemed to have "significantly obstructed" the speech of a controversial campus speaker, for example, could be charged with a serious misdemeanor. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 17 Jan 2019.

Issue(s): Campus Speech

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Arkansas

AB 550: Criminalizing "unlawful mass picketing"

Would have introduced a new crime, "unlawful mass picketing." Under the bill, picketing or demonstrating near a private establishment, business, or school would be illegal if it obstructs the entrance to a place of employment or blocks use of roads, railways, or airports. Commission of unlawful mass picketing would be a Class A misdemeanor, subject to up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 2 Mar 2017; Approved by Senate 13 March 2017; Approved by House 29 March 2017; Vetoed by Governor Hutchinson 6 April 2017

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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