Anti-Protest Bills Around the Country

In response to epic protests around the country, state legislators in nearly 20 states proposed bills in 2017 that would restrict people’s right to protest. The ACLU fought back and many of the bills died or were amended to remove unconstitutional language. For those that passed, we’re hopeful that protestors will exercise their right to dissent and courts will prevent the use of these laws to unconstitutionally burden protest activity. This map is current as of June 23, 2017. 
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Arizona

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • SB 1142: Died. Would have added “rioting” to organized crime statutes, thereby making participation in or organization of a protest that turns into a riot a criminal racketeering offense; would also have enabled police to seize the assets of anyone involved in a protest that at some point becomes violent and would have enabled prosecutors to charge individuals who were not involved in the riot. The bill passed the Senate, but the Speaker of the House then reported it to be “officially dead.”

Arkansas

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • HB 1756: Passed without anti-protest language. As initially drafted, this bill would have criminalized lingering on the sidewalk or on public transit in a way that “seriously annoys” others. The bill passed and became Act 847, but no longer includes that language, though it expands the definition of loitering.
  • SB 550: Vetoed. Would have criminalized mass picketing, but the governor vetoed it.

Colorado

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • SB 35: Died. Would have punished environmental protesters with up to 18 months in prison and/or $100,000 in fines by reclassifying the misdemeanor of obstructing or tampering with oil and gas equipment into a felony.

Florida

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • SB 1096: Died. This “hit and kill” bill would have criminalized protests that obstruct traffic and exempted drivers from liability if they struck a protester under certain conditions.

Georgia

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • SB 160:  Passed without anti-protest language. As introduced, this “Back the Badge” bill would have increased penalties for protesters who blocked any highway, street, sidewalk, or other public passage. The anti-protester language was stripped from the bill as passed.
  • SB 1: Died. Would have prohibited certain activity “intended to advance . . . any ideology or belief” as domestic terrorism. The Senate voted the bill down.

Indiana

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • SB 285: Died. Would have instructed police to use “any means necessary” to clear protesters off a roadway. The bill was amended to tone down the allowance of “any means necessary” to only a ticket and fine, but the watered-down version also failed to move through the legislature.

Iowa

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • SF 426/SF 111: Died. Would have punished protesters who repeatedly block traffic with up to five years in prison.

Michigan

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • HB 4643: Died. Would have increased penalties for picketing, allowed companies to challenge pickets without having to show any actual harm, and repealed a law that requires employers to include information about an ongoing strike when they advertise to hire employees who will replace those on strike. The bill passed the House, but was then shelved.

Minnesota

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • HF 55/HF 390/HF 896 and HF 1066: Died. These bills would have stiffened penalties for protesters who obstructed traffic or access to airports.
  • HF 322: Died. Would have made protesters liable for policing costs if they were convicted of unlawful assembly or public nuisance.

Mississippi

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • SB 2730: Died. Would have criminalized protests that obstruct the passage of emergency vehicles with up to 5 years in prison.

Missouri

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • HB 179: Died. Would have criminalized wearing a mask at a protest in certain circumstances.  
  • HB 826: Died. Would have expanded the definition of “unlawful assembly” and would have criminalized protests that intended to impede traffic by created a new crime, subject to a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

North Carolina

Anti-Protest Bill(s) In Session

  • HB 330/SB 229: In Senate committee (passed House). Would enhance protections for former government officers against threats and assaults. This bill was introduced by a Republican lawmaker who pledged to introduce legislation to criminalize protesters heckling politicians in the state.
  • HB 249: In House committee. Would create a new crime of “economic terrorism,” enhance penalties for protesters who obstruct traffic, and make protesters liable for policing costs.
  • HB 330: In Senate committee (passed House). This “hit and kill” bill would create immunity for anyone who hits a protestor blocking traffic, unless the protest had a permit.

North Dakota

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Passed

  • HB 1293: Passed. This law criminalizes protests on private property where the notice against trespassing is “clear from the circumstances.” It also creates a civil trespass offense that gives officers the option of issuing a citation and $250 fine. Bill text available here
  • SB 2302: Passed. This law allows the attorney general to respond to a large protest by appointing out-of-state law enforcement officers as “ad-hoc special agents.” Bill text available here.
  • HB 1426: Passed. This law increased penalties for riot offenses. Bill text available here.
  • HB 1304: Passed. This law punishes wearing a mask while committing a crime (including minor offenses) to avoid recognition or identification in any public forum, or in a group on private property without written permission. Bill text available here.
  • HB 1203: Died. This “hit and kill” bill would have allowed drivers to run over any protester obstructing a highway, as long as a driver does so accidentally.
  • HB 1193: Died. Would have punished protesters at private facilities and created penalties for those directly or indirectly cause more than $1,000 in economic harm to the government or an individual with up to 5 years in prison.

Oklahoma

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Passed

  • HB 1123: Passed. This law punishes protesters who willfully trespass on “critical infrastructure,” with enhanced penalties for those who do so in order to harm the infrastructure’s operations. Under the law, the state can impose a $1 million fine on any organization “found to be a conspirator” in such trespass. Bill text available here
  • HB 2128: Passed. This law appears to make anyone who is merely arrested for trespass liable for any damages to property caused while trespassing. Bill text available here.

Oregon

Anti-Protest Bill(s) In Session

  • SB 540: In Senate committee. Would require public community colleges and universities to expel any student convicted of participating in a violent riot.

South Dakota

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Passed

  • SB 176: Passed. This law enables officials to prohibit protests of more than 20 people on public lands in certain circumstances and expands the crime of trespass; enables the Department of Transportation to prohibit protesters from stopping on the highway; and criminalizes protests that stop traffic on the highway. Bill text available here. 

Tennessee

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Passed

  • SB 902: Passed. This law imposes a fine of $200 on protesters who obstruct an emergency vehicle from accessing a street or highway. Bill text available here
  • SB 944: Died. This “hit and kill” bill would have immunized drivers who accidentally hit a protestor on a roadway.

Virginia

Anti-Protest Bill(s) Died In Session

  • SB 1055: Died. Would have punished protesters with up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,500 for engaging in “unlawful assembly” after “having been lawfully warned to disperse.”
  • HB 1791: Died. Would have expanded the crime of incitement to riot and heightened penalties for encouraging others to riot against police officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical care providers. The governor vetoed this bill.

Washington

Anti-Protest Bill(s) In Session

  • SB 5009: Reintroduced in special session. Would establish mandatory penalty enhancements for any offense, including ones related to protest, intended to cause “economic disruption”—defined to include influencing a government policy through intimidation and obstructing traffic or transport.
  • SB 5941: Reintroduced in special session. Would criminalize wearing a mask or hood while on any public street, sidewalk, highway, state building, or public lobby because “of a small but dangerous group of individuals who conceal their identities while committing illegal acts under the guise of political protest.”

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