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Protest Laws by State

You can assemble and peacefully protest against the United States government. Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, you can assemble and engage in peaceful protests, such as a sit-in, in a public space or public forum. Public spaces include sidewalks, streets, public squares, and parks.

The federal government, or Congress, can place reasonable restrictions on your speech activity and peaceful assembly, known as “time, place, and manner" restrictions.

For example, a large group requires a demonstration permit before assembling to march down a major public street to protest a human rights violation.

As another example, protestors require a permit when gathering to march in Washington, D.C., to boycott a contentious presidential inauguration.

These restrictions are “reasonable" because the Supreme Court—the highest federal court—has found they aren't based on the content of the speech.

Private property owners can set their own rules for speech on their property. You can be arrested by law enforcement officers for trespassing if you attempt protest activities on private property.

Each state has protest laws designed to spell out the demonstration permit process. There are also criminal penalties for violations of peaceful protest laws. Individual municipalities and cities may have ordinances related to marches, demonstrations, or protests. Speak with a local attorney or contact the local government where you plan to protest to learn more about your protest rights.

Protest Laws by State Overview

Below, you will find information on protest laws by state, including examples of demonstration permit procedures for key cities. Not all cities have the same requirements, even if located in the same state. Contact city government officials in the location you wish to protest to learn more.

Follow the lawful order of police officers while exercising your right to free speech. Avoid violating any court orders. You could face criminal misdemeanor or felony charges if you engage in civil disobedience or ignore a dispersal order.

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 religious, political, or other First Amendment related purpose
  • Must fill out the application three working days before the demonstration
  • Pay non-refundable fee

Alaska

Anchorage

Parks and Recreation Department

  • Must file Special Event Permit Application
  • Must pay a 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 assemblies that will require street closures. This includes events conducted outdoors, including, but not limited to, beer gardens and mazes, having a projected attendance of 500 or more persons. Also applies to confining of 50 or more attendees by the permanent or temporary installation of barricades or fencing. Check with the city manager to learn more
  • Must file an application at least 30 days before the event and pay the 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 serious traffic, safety concerns, or competing‐use concern
  • 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 the 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 ordinary and usual traffic regulations and controls
  • Should file at least 40 days in advance
  • May require permitting fee—check with the department

Colorado

Denver

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

  • Must file application 404 60 days in advance
  • Colorado Division of Central Services (for Colorado State Capitol and Lincoln Park)
  • File Event Permit Request form 30 days in advance
  • Possible fee
  • Must designate an “Event Marshall" as a point of contact during the event
  • §18-9-105 (Disobedience of public safety orders under riot conditions)

Connecticut

Bridgeport

Permits Office

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

Delaware

Wilmington

Department of Parks and Recreation

  • Apply for a Special Event Permit 503
  • Apply 30-45 days in advance for groups under 300 people and 90-120 days in advance for groups of 300 or more
  • A “special event" is any organized activity within Wilmington's city limits that attracts a crowd to a public or private venue. Contact the 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 before a demonstration
  • Pay application fee ranging between $100-$200 depending on the event

Georgia

Atlanta

Office of Special Events

  • File an Assembly Permit Application 30 days in advance of the 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. The pre-planned event requires temporarily closing or obstructing of all or part of any street, sidewalk, or other public right-of way
  • Pay an application fee plus a 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 five days before the event
  • A permit is required for a march, procession, or assembly, or for any activity on a public street, sidewalk, or alley which does not comply with usual traffic regulations or controls

Idaho

Boise

City of Boise, Special Events

  • Must file Special Event Application within 45 days of demonstration
  • Pay the 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 or marches
  • Depends on the location of the protest (public parks, plazas, and 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 the event
  • Pay fees ranging from $75-$268
  • Name a Public Safety contact person
  • For more requirements, see the website

Iowa

Des Moines

City Manager

  • File application
  • See the website for further requirements

Kansas

Wichita

Division of Arts & Cultural Services

  • File Community Event Application within 180 and 60 days before the event
  • Pay a $25 fee plus a $75 late fee if the application is submitted less than 60 calendar days before the event

Kentucky

Louisville

Louisville Metro Emergency Services

Louisiana

New Orleans

City of New Orleans' One Stop Shop

  • File a permit application, depending on where you plan to hold the demonstration
  • Pay fee

Maine

Portland

Public Assembly Facilities Division

Maryland

Baltimore

Department of Recreation and Parks Office

Massachusetts

Boston

City of Boston

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

Michigan

Detroit

City Clerk's Office

Minnesota

Minneapolis

Department of Public Works

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

Mississippi

Jackson

Missouri

Kansas City

Public Works

  • Apply for an Event Permit
  • See the website for more information

Montana

Billings

Public Works

Nebraska

Omaha

Public Works

  • See Individual City Ordinances for More Information

Nevada

Las Vegas

Las Vegas City Hall

New Hampshire

Manchester

City of Manchester

New Jersey

Newark

Newark Police Department

New Mexico

Albuquerque

New York

New York City

North Carolina

Charlotte

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police DepartmentCity of Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT)

  • Apply for Public Assembly Demonstration Permit
  • Protests or demonstrations on public property or rights-of-way that may have 50 or more participants require a Picketing Notice to CMPD. This is not a permit. It is a notification to ensure the city has adequate police resources available

North Dakota

Fargo

City of Fargo Police Department

  • Submit your application and see the website for further details
  • Applications must be submitted 45 days before the event

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

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. Affects events open to the general public taking place in public space that involves a temporary and exclusive use of public space. The use involves a substantial deviation from current legal land use or legal nonconforming use
  • File Application 90 days before the event

Tennessee

Memphis

Special Events Office

  • File Application at least 14 days before the event
  • Pay fee between $25-$50

Texas

Houston

Mayor's Office of Special Events

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

Utah

Salt Lake City

Vermont

Burlington

Burlington Police Department

  • File a Police Event Permit Application and contact the 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 a 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

Note: State laws are always subject to change. This happens through the enactment of new legislation and court decisions. Contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you're researching. If you believe your rights have been violated, you can also contact the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or even the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Questions About Protest Laws? Speak With an Attorney

Are you thinking of applying for a permit to protest peacefully? Contact an attorney to guide you through the paperwork and ensure you meet all deadlines and requirements. A civil rights attorney can assist you with city regulations, explain the law, and help you if you're arrested for a protest-related violation. Know your rights under both state and federal law.

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