Funder Briefing: Protecting the Right to Protest

Black lives. Indigenous sovereignty. Immigrants’ rights. International human rights. Climate change. Clean water. Food systems. Education.

No matter the issue, peaceful protest is fundamental to creating social change. As money floods our political process, voting rights are rolled back, and courts are captured, the right of the public to assemble, oppose governmental and corporate actions, and demand change and accountability is ever more critical. However, a multi-pronged assault on the right to peaceful protest is proliferating nationwide and jeopardizing all that we are fighting for.

  • Protesters are being subjected to intrusive surveillance, violent and militarized policing, and overzealous prosecution designed to suppress their activism.
  • Anti-protest laws creating severe criminal penalties and fines have been enacted in 12 states (over 100 bills have been considered in 35 states) in response to actions led by Indigenous Water Protectors, Black Lives Matter, and students opposing white supremacy. Some bills explicitly target foundations that support these groups.
  • Anti-boycott laws targeting the movement for Palestinian rights have been adopted in 27 states, and are being considered by more than a dozen other states and the federal government – a model for repressing boycotts of all kinds.
  • Gag laws passed in 12 states seek to chill undercover activists and whistleblowers. Originally aimed at factory farms, some laws have expanded to any private business, including hospitals, elder care and veteran care facilities, and schools.
  • At the federal level, proposed National Park Service regulations would all but eliminate protest in our nation’s capital. A new presidential executive order aimed at college campuses would chill speech by students of color and anti-fascists.
  • Corporations are bringing SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) against activists and NGOs, aimed at tying groups up in costly litigation.

Join us to hear from leaders on the front lines in conversation about the challenges they are confronting nationwide, how they are building alliances to fight back and win, and how funders are supporting new networks and campaigns to defend and champion our right to protest.


  • Kylah Johnston, The People’s Lobby
  • Liz Jackson, Palestine Legal
  • Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund
  • Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective
  • Steven Renderos, MediaJustice
  • Moderator: Melissa Spatz, Piper Fund

Co-Sponsored by: Piper Fund, CS Fund, General Service Foundation, Justice Funders, Bay Area Democracy Funders, RISE Together Fund & Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, Funders Committee for Civic Participation, Neighborhood Funders Group, Solidaire Network and Funders for Reproductive Equity.

Register here.

Date: September 25, 2019
Address: The Greenlining Institute
360 14th St, Oakland, CA 94612
Time: 1:00 - 4:00 pm PT