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Protest Laws by State

In the United States, you have the right to assemble and peacefully protest against the government as you see fit. Derived from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, you can assemble and engage in peaceful protest in a public space. That means sidewalks, streets, public squares, and parks, just to name a few.

Yet along with that right, the government can place reasonable restrictions on your speech activities known as “time, place, and manner” restrictions. One such example is requiring you to have a demonstration permit before a large group assembles to march down a major public street or when a gathering of protesters agree to march on Washington D.C. during a contentious presidential inauguration. These types of restrictions are considered “reasonable” because the Supreme Court has found they are not based on the content of the speech.

Each state has its own form of protest laws designed to spell out the demonstration permit process and provide criminal penalties for violations of peaceful protest laws. Keep in mind, individual municipalities and cities may have their own ordinances related to marches, demonstrations, or protests. Speak with a local attorney or contact the city in which you plan to protest to learn more.

Protest Laws by State Overview

Below you will find key information on protest test laws by state including examples of demonstration permit procedures from key cities. Not all citiies have the same requirements, even if located in the same state. Contact city officials in the location you wish to protest to learn more. Finally, you should always follow the lawful order of a peace officer while exercising your right to free speech.

State

Public Property Protest/Demonstration Permit Information (By Major City)

Unlawful Assembly State Code

Failure to Disperse State Code

Alabama

Birmingham

Traffic Engineering Department

  • Applies to any demonstration or other event organized or held for political, religious, or other First Amendment related purpose
  • Must fill out application three working days before demonstration
  • Pay non-refundable fee

Alaska

Anchorage

 

Parks and Recreation Department

  • Must file Special Event Permit Application
  • Must pay non-refundable processing fee
  • Must include a site plan/event proposal
  • May have to file a Noise Permit Application

Arizona

Phoenix

City Manager’s Office/Parks and Recreation Department

  • Typically required for public outdoor assembly which will require street closures including event conducted outdoors, including but not limited to beer gardens and mazes, having a projected attendance of 500 or more persons or confines 50 or more attendees by the permanent or temporary installation of barricades or fencing. Check with the city manager to learn more
  • Must file application at least 30 days prior to event and pay fee

Arkansas

Little Rock

City Manager’s Office

  • May need to file a Public Assembly Permit application signed by a notary public if there is a serious traffic, safety concerns, or competing‐use concerns
  • Pay application fee
  • Department of Public Works and Little Rock Police will additionally review the application

California

Los Angeles

Special Events Permit Unit (SEPU) within Emergency Operations Division of the Los Angeles Police Department

  • File Special Event Permit Application for parades, marches, demonstrations, processions and assemblies in public places which impact the normal and usual traffic regulations and controls.
  • Should file at least 40 days in advance
  • May require permitting fee, check with department

Colorado

Denver

Denver Parks and Recreation (For public assemblies of 50 or more people at Denver public parks and recreation facilities)

Colorado Division of Central Services (For Colorado State Capitol and Lincoln Park)

  • File Event Permit Request form 30 days in advance
  • Possible $150 fee
  • Must designate an “Event Marshall” as a point of contact during event
  • §18-9-105 (Disobedience of public safety orders under riot conditions)

Connecticut

Bridgeport

Permits Office

  • Must file application for all parades or demonstrations
  • Pay $50 fee

Delaware

Wilmington

Department of Parks and Recreation

  • Apply for a Special Event Permit
  • Apply 30-45 in advance for groups under 300 people, 90-120 days in advance for groups of 300 or more
  • A “special event” is any organized activity that occurs within Wilmington’s city limits which attracts a crowd to a public or private venue. Contact office for more information.
  • Del. Code tit. § 3101 (Disorderly Conduct, congregating with other persons in a public place and refusing to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse)

District of Columbia

Mayor's Special Events Task Group

  • Permit needed for special events
  • A special event includes parades, cultural programs, festivals, musical rock concerts, religious gatherings, block parties, community activities, and First Amendment Rights activities.
  • "Any activity where large numbers of persons may gather" and "activities for which licenses and permits are required”
  • Permit requirements vary by agency

Florida

Jacksonville:

Office of Special Events

  • Must file Special Event Permit 90 days prior to demonstration
  • Application fee $100-$200 depending on event

Georgia

Atlanta

Office of Special Events

  • File an Assembly Permit Application 30 days in advance of event
  • An assembly is a pre-planned event consisting of people, animals or vehicles, or any combination of the above moving towards a common destination or goal that requires temporarily closing or obstructing all or part of any street, sidewalk, or other public right of way.
  • Pay application fee of $50 plus non-refundable sanitation bond, under some circumstances

Hawaii

Honolulu

Department of Transportation Services

  • File a permit application and provide all required documentation and fees
  • Must be filed 5 days before event
  • A permit is required for a march, procession, assembly or for any activity on a public street, sidewalk or alley which does not comply with normal and usual traffic regulations or controls

Idaho

Boise

City of Boise, Special Events

  • Must file Special Event Application within 45 days of demonstration
  • Pay fee $186.50 permit application fee
  • Includes festivals, parades, runs/walks, farmer’s markets, and other planned group activities

Illinois

Chicago

City of Chicago office

  • Must file permit application in some circumstances for rallies and/or marches
  • Depends on location of protest (public park, plazas, public buildings such as the State of Illinois Thompson Building Plaza
  • Contact the Mayor’s office to learn more

Indiana

Indianapolis

Business and Neighborhood Services & Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department

  • File Special Event Permit 60 days prior to event
  • Pay fee ranging from $75-$268
  • Name a Public Safety contact person
  • More requirements, see website

Iowa

Des Moines

City Manager

  • File application
  • See website for further requirements

Kansas

Wichita

Metropolitan Area Planning Commission

· Kan. Stat. § 21-6201 (Incitement to Riot)

Kentucky

Louisville

Office of Special Events (OSE)

Louisiana

New Orleans

City of New Orleans' One Stop Shop

Maine

Portland:

Public Assembly Facilities Division

Maryland

Baltimore:

Department of Recreation and Parks Office

Massachusetts

Boston

City of Boston

  • Submit Public Event Application either two weeks or 30 days before event
  • Pay fee
  • May have to receive permission from several different departments

Mass. Gen. laws ch. 269, §1

Michigan

Detroit

City Clerk’s Office

Minnesota

Minneapolis

Department of Public Works

  • Apply for a Parade Permit at least five days prior to event
  • $25 application fee

Mississippi

Jackson

Jackson Police Department

Missouri

Kansas City

Public Works

Montana

Billings

Public Works

Nebraska

Omaha

Public Works

  • See Individual City Ordinances for More Information

Nevada

Las Vegas

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police

  • File Permit Application
  • Pay fees
  • See website for more information

New Hampshire

Manchester

· Disorderly Conduct Laws

New Jersey

Newark

Newark Police Department

  • File Application 30 days in advance of event
  • Contact Newark Police to learn more and receive application

New Mexico

Albuquerque

  • N.M. Stat. § 30-20-1 (Disorderly Conduct)

New York

New York City

New York Police Department, City of New York

North Carolina

Charlotte

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, City of Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT)

North Dakota

Fargo

City of Fargo Police Department

  • Submit application and see website for further details

Ohio

Columbus

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City

Office of Special Events

Oregon

Portland

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

Office of Special Events

Rhode Island

Providence

City of Providence Special Event Planning

· Same as Disorderly Conduct

South Carolina

Columbia

Columbia Police Department

South Dakota

Sioux Falls

Special Event Planning

  • Includes events involving 25 or more persons, animals or vehicles, or a combination thereof, open to the general public taking place on public space that involves a temporary and exclusive use of public space involving a substantial deviation from current legal land use or legal nonconforming use
  • File Application 90 days before event

Tennessee

Memphis

Special Events Office

  • File Application at least 14 days prior to event
  • Pay fee between $25-$50

Texas

Houston

Mayor’s Office of Special Events

  • File Application for Special Event
  • Deadlines vary
  • Cost depends on event type
  • See Special Event Permit pamphlet

Utah

Salt Lake City

Vermont

Burlington

Burlington Police Department

  • File Police Event Permit Application and contact department to learn more

Virginia

City of Virginia Beach

Special Events and Film Production Office

Washington

Seattle

Special Events Office

  • File Special Events permit for your Free Speech event
  • Free Speech Event means solely expressive activity, such as march, rally, demonstration, or other activity
  • Does not include non-expressive or commercial activity such as commercial food or sales

West Virginia

City of Charleston

Wisconsin

Milwaukee

Special Events Permit Office

Wyoming

Cheyenne

City Clerk’s Office

· Same

Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through the enactment of new legislation but also through court decisions and other means. Contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Questions About Protest Laws? Speak with an Attorney

If you are thinking of applying for a permit to peacefully protest and need help sorting out all the red tape, you may want to consult an attorney in your state to help guide you through the paperwork and make sure you are meeting all deadlines. A civil rights attorney can assist you with city regulations, explain the law, and help you if you are arrested for a protest-related violation.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified civil rights attorney
to help you protect your rights.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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