According to the Associated Press, a Republican-backed bill passed through the Oklahoma Senate with a 38-10 vote, receiving final legislative approval on Wednesday. The bill grants immunity to motorists who kill or injure protestors while “fleeing a riot,” while increasing penalties for protesters blocking roadways.
Bill 1674 would create a new section of law to protect motor vehicle operators fleeing a riot, under a reasonable belief their actions were necessary to protect them from serious injury or death. Additionally, it would update statute language relating to those who are convicted of illegal activity during the course of riots.
The bill was authored by Republican representatives Kevin West and Kevin McDugle who initially presented the bill. HB 1674 passed in the House by a vote of 79-18. It advanced to the to the state Senate, where it was authored by Republican Senator Rob Standridge.
“Last summer, during the height of violent riots that were sweeping the nation, resulting in loss of life and millions of dollars in property damage, a motorist in Oklahoma traveling with his wife and two school-aged children was surrounded by aggressive protestors in the roadway,” West said in the press release. “The protestors beat at his truck and threw things at it, scaring both him and his family. The driver was severely chastised for trying to hurt the protesters and he even faced the possibility of criminal charges for his actions in attempting to evade the protestors. This measure would clarify a motorist’s rights in a similar situation going forward. It also would clarify punishments for rioters acting illegally to impede traffic or seeking harm of other individuals during the course of a riot.”
McDugle said that he agrees that peaceful protest is a right of the people, but “once anyone impedes on the freedoms of others, the protest is no longer peaceful.” He added that he wants to ensure that people on both sides of any issue are kept safe, while having the right to defend or protect their families when they feel their lives are threatened.
Under HB 1674, if anyone blocks the normal use of any public street, highway, or road in Oklahoma, he or she would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment up to one year, and a fine up to $5,000.00.
On April 14, KOCO 5 reporter Dillon Richards tweeted that “Minority Leader Kay Floyd (D-OKC) was asking about this language, which she says would allow someone to be charged with rioting for simply unlawfully standing in the street. The definition of a riot was also questioned.”