In reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement and Dakota Access Pipeline protests, lawmakers in Tennessee, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina introduced legislation that would protect the rights of drivers who plow through crowds.
State lawmakers in at least six GOP-controlled states have pushed for laws this year that would shield drivers who hit protesters. The bills are part of a wave of anti-protest proposals introduced since the rise of the Black Lives Matter and anti-Trump resistance movements.
Two Republican lawmakers in North Dakota introduced a bill in January that would protect motorists who hit pedestrians blocking traffic, as long as they can prove it was unintentional.
“A driver of a motor vehicle who negligently causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway may not be held liable for any damages.”
The bill was rejected in a 41-50 vote but in the aftermath, similar bills have been multiplying across the country.
After a driver ran into safety workers at a rally against President Trump’s travel ban in Nashville, lawmakers in Tennessee proposed a bill that would protect drivers from civil liability. The driver was never arrested or charged with a crime. The bill failed in a House committee in March.
After Black Lives Matter activists blocked streets and highways to protest the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, the North Carolina House approved legislation in a 67-48 vote that would also shield drivers from charges if they hit protesters while exercising “due care.”
“These people are nuts to run in front of cars like they do, if somebody does bump somebody, why should they be held liable?”
Now legislatures in Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa are also trying to add laws specifically targeting roadway blocking. The proposed bills have dismayed the American Civil Liberties Union, which fears they would trample First Amendment rights.