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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4 entries matching in provided filters in 1 states.
Washington

SB 5456: New penalties for “swarming” a car during a protest, and provision for driver immunity

Would create a new offense, “swarming,” defined as one or more people participating in a protest or demonstration who “knowingly approach, surround, block” or “otherwise unlawfully impede or attempt to impede” the progress of a vehicle on a public street, highway, or parking lot. The offense of “swarming” applies regardless of whether the protest the people were participating in is authorized by a permit or not. It is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine; a subsequent offense is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The bill also provides that a driver who injures someone while trying to avoid or flee from people engaged in “swarming,” “disorderly conduct,” or “criminal mischief” is immune from a civil lawsuit, as long as the injury was unintentional. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 15 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): Driver Immunity, Traffic Interference

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Washington

SB 5310: Steep penalties for protesters who block traffic, for protest organizers, and an expansive new "riot" offense

The bill creates a new felony offense that could be levied against protesters who block traffic on a highway. According to the bill, a group of four or more people who make passage on a highway "unreasonably inconvenient" without legal authority to do so, are guilty of "obstructing a highway," a Class C felony punishable by 5 years in prison and $10,000. The bill also provides civil immunity for a driver who injures or kills someone on the highway if the driver was "reasonably attempting" to avoid or "flee" the person. The bill creates a new felony offense of "leading an organized riot," an act sufficiently broadly defined to include organizing or supporting a peaceful protest that is deemed unlawful. Under the bill, "organizing, managing, directing, supervising, or financing" a group of three or more people with the intent "to promote the accomplishment of a pattern of criminal mischief," constitutes "leading an organized riot," a Class C felony. The bill would newly criminalize "riot," using a broad definition that could encompass peaceful protesters. The bill defines "riot" to include knowingly and unlawfully participating in an assembly with seven or more people, with "acts of conduct within that group" that create a "substantial risk" of property damage or personal injury. The offense does not require that an individual personally act in a way that threatens personal injury or property damage. For instance, if an individual joins a very large, spontaneous protest that does not have a permit, and someone "within that group" threatens to damage property, the individual could be charged with "riot." The offense is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Finally, the bill would waive the immunity of any "political subdivision," including counties, cities, and towns, making them civilly liable for property loss or personal injury resulting from any "riot" or "unlawful assembly" if law enforcement have not exercised "reasonable care or diligence" to prevent or "suppress[]" the riot or assembly. In such an event, the bill provides that the subdivision may be further subject to a fine of $10,000 per day, and lose up to one-half of its share of the state's "criminal justice assistance account" for up to one year. These provisions, if enacted, could encourage local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests, in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 20 Jan 2021.

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

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Washington

SB 5941: New penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would prohibit a person from "wearing a mask, hood, or device where any portion of the face is covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer" when they are on public or state-owned property including, e.g., during a protest. Under the bill, commission of this offense is punishable as a gross misdemeanor. State Senator Jim Honeyford said he sponsored this bill in response to vandalism and violence that he believes occurs "under the guise of political speech," that threatens citizens' "safety and welfare." (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 22 May 2017; reintroduced 8 January, 2018.

Issue(s): Face Covering

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Washington

SB 5009: Heightened penalties for protests that block traffic and interfere with "economic activities"

Would target protests that disrupt roadways, railroads, and other "legally permitted economic activities." The bill heightens penalties for illegal actions that aim to create economic harm by impeding legally-permitted economic activities. According to the bill, if a court finds that the perpetrator of another offense intended to cause economic disruption, his or her sentence can be extended 60 days for a misdemeanor, six months for a gross misdemeanor, and 12 months for a felony. The bill provides that those who fund or sponsor such actions can be charged as accomplices. The state senator who sponsored the bill indicated in November 2016 that it was drafted to respond to protests aimed at disrupting economic activities, which he deemed tantamount to "economic terrorism." (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 9 Jan 2017; reintroduced 8 January, 2018.

Issue(s): Traffic Interference

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