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
255 bills
39 enacted 11 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation

Latest updates: Jan. 30, 2023 (Minnesota), Jan. 26, 2023 (New York), Jan. 24, 2023 (West Virginia)
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West Virginia

HB 4615: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Heightens potential penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure. Under the law, knowingly trespassing on property containing a critical infrastructure facility is punishable by a year in jail and a $500 fine. Criminal trespass on critical infrastructure property with intent to "vandalize, deface, tamper with equipment, or impede or inhibit operations" of the facility is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $1,000 fine. Actually vandalizing, defacing, or tampering with the facility--regardless of actual damage--is a felony punishable by 5 years in prison and a $2,000 fine. An individual convicted of any of the offenses, and any entity that "compensates, provides consideration to or remunerates" a person for committing the offenses, is also civilly liable for any damage sustained. An organization or person found to have "conspired" to commit any of the offenses--regardless of whether they were committed--is subject to a criminal fine. The law newly defines "critical infrastructure facility" under West Virginia law to include a range of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, and railroad facilities that are fenced off or posted with signs indicating that entry is prohibited. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 30 Jan 2020; Approved by House 13 February 2020; Approved by Senate 7 March 2020; Signed by Governor Justice 25 March 2020

Issue(s): Conspiracy, Infrastructure, Trespass

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West Virginia

HB 4618: Eliminating police liability for deaths while dispersing riots and unlawful assemblies

Reaffirms West Virginia's problematic law on rioting, and adds the West Virginia Capitol Police to those authorities who cannot be held liable for the deaths and wounding of individuals in the course of dispersing riots and unlawful assemblies. Under prior West Virginia law, the State Police, sheriffs, and mayors had authority to use means such as curfews and warrantless searches to disperse riots and unlawful assemblies; the law reaffirms and extends this authority to the Capitol Police. According to the law, if a bystander is asked to assist in the dispersal and fails to do so, he or she "shall be deemed a rioter." The law also adds Capitol Police to existing provisions eliminating liability if anyone present, "as spectator or otherwise, be killed or wounded," while the authorities used "any means" to disperse riots or unlawful assemblies or arrest those involved. The law was passed during a statewide strike by West Virginia teachers, thousands of whom protested in February 2018 at the State Capitol. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 13 Feb 2018; Approved by House 22 February 2018; Approved by Senate 8 March 2018; Signed by Governor Justice 10 March 2018

Issue(s): Police Response, Riot, Strikes

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West Virginia

HB 2916: Potential "terrorism" charges for nonviolent protests

Would create two new, sweeping “terrorism” offenses that could cover nonviolent protesters. One new offense, “terrorist violent mass action,” is defined to include “violent protests” and “riots” that “appear intended” to coerce or intimidate groups, governments, or societies. The bill provides that “any person or group that participates” in such an action commits “terrorism.” “Violent protest” is not defined in the bill or elsewhere in the law, nor does the bill require that a person individually commit any act of violence or property damage to be culpable. As such, someone who peacefully participates in a nonviolent but rowdy protest where a few individuals commit property damage could conceivably face felony charges for engaging in a “terrorist violent mass action.” Likewise, a nonprofit group involved in organizing or supporting such a protest could be deemed a “terrorist organization” under the bill. Individuals and organizations not directly involved in such a protest could also face felony “terrorism” charges for providing protesters with “material support”--broadly defined by the bill as “any property, tangible or intangible, or service.” The bill also creates a new “terrorism” offense for “actions… taken for political reasons to bar other persons from exercising their freedom of movement, via foot or any other conveyance.” As defined, that could cover a large, peaceful march that even temporarily stops traffic; under the bill, participants in such a march could face charges of “unlawful restraint, kidnapping, and terrorism.” Meanwhile, the bill provides complete immunity for people who “injure perpetrators or supporters of perpetrators” while attempting to “escape” such “unlawful restraint, kidnapping, and terrorism.” This provision would seem to eliminate consequences for acts of violence against protesters by people whose movement has been blocked by a protest, including drivers who hit protesters with their cars. Additionally, under the bill, any person or group that conducts “a deliberate attack” on “critical infrastructure” also commits “terrorism.” “Attack” is not defined or limited, for instance, to actions resulting in any actual damage, such that any large demonstration near infrastructure that authorities want to shut down could seemingly be deemed an “attack.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 23 Jan 2023.

Issue(s): Damage Costs, Conspiracy, Driver Immunity, Infrastructure, Security Costs, Riot, Terrorism, Traffic Interference

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