Marching for groups like Black Lives Matter or even in an LGBTQ Pride celebration just got a lot more dangerous in Oklahoma.
Thanks to a new piece of state legislation signed by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, drivers who “accidentally” run over protesters or people who are blocking a road as part of a march will now have immunity for their actions.
Keith Allen of CNN has reported that a new bill signed into law by Stitt will grant legal immunity to “drivers who unintentionally injure or kill protesters while attempting to flee” the scene of a protest. The new bill also increases penalties for protesters and demonstrators who “block” public roadways.
The Republican-sponsored bill passed the state last week in a vote of 38-10.
“The bill makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine for anyone who obstructs a public street during the course of a protest,” Allen reported. “House Bill 1674 also states that drivers cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for killing or injuring a protester if they are ‘fleeing from a riot,’ and there is ‘reasonable belief’ that they are in danger.”
Critics say the bill is a direct attack on movements like Black Lives Matter, where protesters have taken to the streets in massive numbers to push city and state governments for social change. While some of these protests have turned violent, the majority of them were peaceful and fully protected under the First Amendment.
Oklahoma lawmakers, however, don’t appear to see it that way.
After signing the new legislation, Stitt said, “We are sending a message today in Oklahoma that rioters who threaten law-abiding citizens’ safety will not be tolerated.”
Allen reported that Stitt’s actions even managed to draw its own minor skirmish in the state’s Capitol building.
“A group protesting the legislation briefly gained entry to the House Chambers inside the State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday,” Allen reported. “The session resumed after the protesters left the Capitol building.”