US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker, part of ICNL’s US Program, follows initiatives at the state and federal level since November 2016 that restrict the right to peaceful assembly. For information about our methodology, click here.

40 states have
considered
133 bills
25 enacted 2 enacted with
improvements
19 pending 87 defeated or
expired

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Aug. 30, 2020 (US Federal), Aug. 24, 2020 (US Federal), Aug. 23, 2020 (Tennessee)
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Wisconsin

AB 426: New penalties for protests near gas and oil pipelines

Would create new potential penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines and other property of "energy providers." The bill expands existing law related to trespass and property damage to broadly include the property of all companies in the oil and gas industry. Under the bill, trespass onto the property of any “company that operates a gas, oil, petroleum, refined petroleum product, renewable fuel, water, or chemical generation, storage, transportation, or delivery system" would be a Class H felony, punishable by six years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Accordingly, protests in a range of locations could be covered, whether on land containing a pipeline or the corporate headquarters of an oil company. Any damage to property of such a company, with the intent to "cause substantial interruption or impairment of any service or good" provided by the company, would likewise be a Class H felony under the bill. (See full text of bill here)

Status: enacted

Introduced 12 Sep 2019; Approved by Assembly 11 October 2019; Approved by Senate 5 November 2019; Signed by Governor Evers on 21 November 2019

Issue(s): infrastructure, trespass

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Wisconsin

AB 617: New penalties for protesters who conceal their identity

Would make it a crime to wear a mask to conceal one's identity when an individual is on a sidewalk, walkway, bike path, highway, or public property. It also makes it a crime to be masked while participating in a "meeting or demonstration" on private property without the permission of the property owner. There are exceptions for wearing a mask for religious beliefs, a holiday costume, protecting oneself from the elements, or because it is part of one's occupation. However, there is no exception for wearing a mask during a demonstration. The offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 9 months in jail or a $10,000 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 19 Nov 2019.

Issue(s): face coverings

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Wisconsin

AB 444: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would impose mandatory disciplinary measures on student protesters in certain cases. The bill requires that the University of Wisconsin's Board of Regents adopt a policy that includes a range of disciplinary sanctions for anyone under an institution’s jurisdiction who engages in “violent or other disorderly conduct that materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others.” The bill further requires universities in the state system to suspend for at least one semester any student “who has twice been found responsible for interfering with the expressive rights of others.” If a student is found responsible for such interference a third time, they must be expelled. As a result, rowdy protests in public areas of campus that, for instance, made it difficult to hear a speech, would be banned and its participants liable to penalties. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 13 Sep 2019; Approved by House on 11 February 2020

Issue(s): campus speech

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Wisconsin

AB 395/SB 303: Expanded definition of "riot"

As originally introduced, Assembly Bill 395 would have newly defined a “riot” under Wisconsin law and provided for heavy criminal penalties for participants in a riot. The introduced bill broadly defined “riot” as a “public disturbance” including an act or threat of violence among an assembly of three or more people that “constitutes a clear and present danger” of damage to persons or property. Accordingly, under the introduced bill, individuals in a gathering where a violent or destructive incident took place could be charged with participation in a riot, classified as a Class I felony punishable by three and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The bill was amended in late 2017, revising and narrowing the offense of "participation in a riot" to require individual intent: Under the amended bill, it is a Class I felony to "intentionally" commit or threaten to commit an act of violence that "constitutes a clear and present danger" of damage to persons or property, while engaging in a "public disturbance" with at least three people. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 19 Jun 2017.

Issue(s): riot

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Wisconsin

AB 396/SB 304: New penalties for blocking traffic during a riot

Would create a new criminal offense of blocking a public or private thoroughfare or access to a private or public building while participating in a riot (as defined and penalized in AB 395). The bill was amended in late 2017 to add elements of individual intent; under the amended version, it is a Class H felony to "intentionally" commit or threaten to commit an act of violence that "constitutes a clear and present danger" of damage to persons or property, while blocking a thoroughfare or access point as part of a "public disturbance" with at least three people. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 19 Jun 2017.

Issue(s): riot, traffic interference

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Wisconsin

AB 397/SB 305: New penalties for carrying a weapon during a riot

Would impose new penalties for participation in a riot (as defined and penalized in AB 395) while carrying a dangerous weapon. Doing so is classified as a Class G felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The bill was amended in late 2017 to add elements of individual intent: Under the revised bill, it is a Class G felony to "knowingly use a dangerous weapon" and "intentionally" commit or threaten to commit an act of violence that "constitutes a clear and present danger" of damage to persons or property, while engaging in a "public disturbance" with at least three people. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 19 Jun 2017.

Issue(s): riot, weapons

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Wisconsin

AB 299: Mandatory sanctions for campus protesters

Would impose mandatory disciplinary measures on student protesters in certain cases. The bill requires that students who engage in “violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, obscene, unreasonably loud, or other disorderly conduct that interferes with the free expression of others” on Wisconsin college or university campuses be compelled to attend a mandatory disciplinary hearing. The bill also requires campus authorities to suspend for a minimum of one semester or expel a student who interferes more than once with another’s free speech, for instance by protesting a controversial campus speaker. (See full text of bill here)

Status: defeated / expired

Introduced 5 May 2017; Approved by Assembly 21 June 2017

Issue(s): campus speech

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