A brand new Oklahoma regulation protects drivers who unintentionally injure or kill demonstrators from any legal responsibility, whereas concurrently subjecting protesters who block roadways to jail time and hefty fines.
“They’re focusing on teams of protesters who’re simply wanting to make use of their freedom of speech, passing payments that can intimidate them within the hopes of preserving folks from utilizing their first modification rights, passing payments that decriminalize the homicide of protesters, which is totally insane,” mentioned Adriana Legal guidelines, founding father of the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition.
Due to HB 1674, a driver “who unintentionally causes harm or dying” whereas exercising “due care” gained’t be criminally or civilly liable in the event that they moderately imagine they’re “fleeing from a riot” the place they’ll be harmed.
Obstruction of a public road, freeway or street will now represent a misdemeanor, punishable by as much as a 12 months in a county jail and costs as excessive as $5,000. Anybody who commits the offense shall be accountable for damages.
Legislators handed HB 1674 following historic protests towards police brutality and racial injustice final summer season, each in Oklahoma and throughout the nation. The mass demonstrations – most of which had been peaceable – confronted sharp criticism from Republicans, who decried property injury and violence by some protesters.
In the meantime, automobiles have develop into a weapon amongst these hoping to disrupt demonstrations, or drivers who get flummoxed and enraged. Folks drove their automobiles into protests greater than 100 occasions final summer season, and a minimum of two protesters had been fatally struck, based on USA At this time.
In 2017, white supremacist James Fields Jr murdered Heather Heyer by ramming into anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“This regulation is harmful and meant to discourage Oklahomans from exercising their constitutional proper to peaceable protest,” mentioned Lani R Habrock, authorities affairs director for the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The invoice was amongst a collection of reactionary legislative proposals that some concern might hinder Oklahomans’ potential to protest. One other – which criminalizes posting private details about regulation enforcement officers on-line, and which advocates imagine might deal a blow to accountability – has additionally develop into regulation.
“Most of it was what we had been seeing nationwide, and simply a number of concern that might come to our yard actual fast,” West mentioned.
Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma 2nd Modification Affiliation, spoke in a video from February about his want for laws like HB 1674. Past defending drivers who run folks over, he hoped those that had been obstructing visitors can be held liable – “I assume in the event that they’re alive – if there’s something left of ’em”.
“In the event you’re unlawfully blocking a roadway for the intent function of probably doing injury, to scare folks, to hurt folks,” he warned, “people, you may be treaded on with the automotive tires.”