Oklahoma bill to protect drivers who run over protesters signed into law

National

Protesters light a fire in a dumpster in downtown Portland, Ore., Friday, April 16, 2021. Police in Portland, said Saturday they arrested several people after declaring a riot Friday night when protesters smashed windows, burglarized businesses and set multiple fires during demonstrations that started after police fatally shot a man while responding to reports of a person with a gun. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)

OKLAHOMA CITY (WFLA/KFOR/AP) – A bill that could give drivers immunity if they feel threatened and run over a protester during a demonstration was signed into law this week by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt.

House Bill 1674 was written by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, and Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman.

The bill makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine to block a public street and grant criminal and civil immunity to motorists that kill or injure someone while fleeing a riot.

Supporters of the bill said it was prompted mostly by an incident in Tulsa last summer in which a pickup truck drove through a crowd gathered on a Tulsa interstate while protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“You can protest all you want, I encourage that, but once you start throwing things at people’s cars, and trying to break their windows and pull them out of the car, it’s no longer a protest, that’s what you call a riot,” Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) said.

The bill also penalizes individuals who “unlawfully obstruct” approaching vehicles from using a public street, highway or road or endangering vehicles’ or pedestrians’ safe movement.

Penalties include a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine ranging from $100 to $5,000, as well as liability for damage to person or property.

The bill’s passing follows similar legislation signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1, nicknamed the “anti-riot bill,” which includes a number of the measures introduced by Gov. Ron DeSantis after last summer’s protests in his Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act.

The bill, which covers 61 pages, makes several changes to Florida criminal and administrative law, and will:

  • Make it more difficult for cities and counties to reduce funding for law enforcement, allowing local elected officials to challenge those budget decisions, and giving the state power to approve or amend the local budget
  • Allow those local governments to be sued if they fail to stop a riot
  • Define “riot” as a violent public disturbance involving 3 or more people acting with common intent resulting in injury to others, damage to property, or the imminent danger of injury or damage
  • Enhance penalties for people who commit crimes during a riot
  • Create a new second-degree felony called an “aggravated riot,” which occurs when the riot has more than 25 participants, causes great bodily harm or more than $5,000 in property damage, uses or threatens to use a deadly weapon, or blocks roadways by force or threat of force

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