[guest post by Dana]
Another state reacting to the upheaval of last summer:
Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that would make more clear the rights of drivers who strike pedestrians if they feel their lives are in danger during a riot.
On a party-line vote Wednesday, the House passed a bill that grants civil and criminal immunity for drivers who unintentionally injure or kill protesters while “fleeing from a riot.”
State Rep. Kevin West, a Republican, introduced the measure that he said would clarify a motorist’s rights in situations where a driver is looking to flee the scene of a riot.
House Bill 1674 from Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, is just one of a handful of GOP-sponsored bills in the Oklahoma Legislature this year designed to crack down on protests.
HB 1674 states that every person who unlawfully obstructs – or makes impassable or hazardous – the normal use of any public street, highway or road within Oklahoma by impeding, hindering or restraining motor vehicle traffic or passengers, by endangering the safe movement of motor vehicles or pedestrians shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not less than $100 and not exceeding $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment. In addition, the person shall be liable for all damages to person or property, according to the news release.
The measure also addresses organizations found to have conspired with people found guilty of committing crimes under rioting statutes, officials said. Those organizations shall be fined 10 times the amount authorized by the appropriate provision.
The bill’s co-author, Rep. Kevin McDugle offered this background:
“Last summer, during the height of violent riots that were sweeping the nation, resulting in loss of life and millions of dollars in property damage, a motorist in Oklahoma traveling with his wife and two school-aged children was surrounded by aggressive protestors in the roadway,” West said. “The protestors beat at his truck and threw things at it, scaring both him and his family. The driver was severely chastised for trying to hurt the protesters and he even faced the possibility of criminal charges for his actions in attempting to evade the protestors. This measure would clarify a motorist’s rights in a similar situation going forward. It also would clarify punishments for rioters acting illegally to impede traffic or seeking harm of other individuals during the course of a riot.”
“I fully agree that peaceful protests are a right of the people, and I condone anyone who wants to protest peacefully,” McDugle said. “Once anyone impedes on the freedoms of others, however, the protest is no longer peaceful. I simply want to make sure people on both sides of any issue are kept safe and have the right to defend or protect their families when they feel their lives are threatened.”
As one would expect, Democrats objected to the bill. Rather than going after protesters, they believed that lawmakers should be “taking steps to address systemic racism and police misconduct that have spurred widespread Black Lives Matter protests”.
Why not do both? Focusing on one issue doesn’t negate the ability to focus on the other issue.