The Republican-majority Oklahoma state House passed a bill on Wednesday that would grant immunity to drivers who “unintentionally” run over protesters.
In an early morning vote along party lines, with 79 votes in favor and 18 against, state lawmakers approved legislation that would remove criminal or civil liability for any driver who “unintentionally” injures or kills someone while “fleeing from a riot,” as long as they have a “reasonable belief” that fleeing would protect themselves from harm.
The bill would also allow protesters to be charged with a misdemeanor if they “unlawfully obstruct” traffic, punishable by up to a year in jail and $5,000 in fines.
The legislation follows widespread protests in Oklahoma and across the country last summer against racist police violence. Black Lives Matter protesters have repeatedly been targeted by vehicle assaults.
At one such protest in Tulsa, a truck drove through Black Lives Matter protesters on a highway. Several people were seriously injured, according to The Oklahoman, and the county district attorney did not charge the driver.
Democratic state Rep. Monroe Nichols, who is Black, told his fellow lawmakers that he doesn’t want to have to tell his 12-year-old son that the Oklahoma House “made it so that folks who may advocate for people who look like him can be run over with immunity.”
The bill now heads over to the Republican-majority state Senate.
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