Protecting the Right to Protest

Piper Fund – Right to Protest - Proteus Fund

The fundamental right to give public voice to our concerns, to oppose our government’s actions, and support the ideals that are close to our hearts is in peril. Corporate leaders, lawmakers, and others in positions of power and influence seek to criminalize peaceful protest, a hallmark of our democracy, for the benefit of their own interests.

The Piper Fund and its affiliate, the Piper Action Fund, are responding, through a pooled fund that is protecting the Right to Protest.

Since 2017, bills have been introduced in nearly all 50 states to disincentivize protest, with policies ranging from dramatically increased civil fines for protestors and increased criminal penalties for specific forms of protest, and even for organizations and individuals supporting protest.

Many of these bills are in response to powerful social movements such as protests led by Native American communities at Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter protests across the country. These bills have been overwhelmingly aimed at silencing communities of color. For example, bills raising criminal penalties for protesting on highways have targeted the Black Lives Matter movement; bills preventing protest at “critical infrastructure” sites have targeted pipeline protestors, including Indigenous communities. In several states, these bills have become law.

Legislation restricting protest rights is reinforced by harmful narrative trends that aim to dehumanize and delegitimize protestors and their actions. Leaders have characterized peaceful demonstrators, particularly those of color, as terrorists, angry mobs, and rioters to inspire fear and build support for efforts to crack down on and criminalize dissent. 

In a moment in which disenfranchised communities are relying upon protest as a critical form of participation in US democracy, maintaining this right is critical. If not stopped, these bills will hinder any and all groups seeking to demand racial justice, environmental justice, reproductive rights, health care, economic justice—indeed across the spectrum of communities’ concerns.

Piper’s Right to Protest fund supports critical work to protect this fundamental right and counteract harmful narratives, including:

    • Public education grants to organizations on the front lines in states facing dangerous legislation or where there are opportunities to advance proactive efforts to conduct public education, engage their communities, and advocate for freedom of assembly;
    • The development and facilitation, together with Piper Action Fund, of a national network, Protect Dissent, that provides coordinated support to state groups and works collaboratively to protect this Constitutional right;
    • Messaging research and support to help advocates hone their communications strategies.
Melissa Rudnick

Melissa Rudnick

Program Officer, Protecting the Right to Protest

For more information on the Protecting the Right to Protest initiative: