OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill that could give drivers immunity if they feel threatened and run over a protester during a demonstration is now on the governor’s desk.
“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.
He referenced a case from last summer, after a family in Tulsa was surrounded by protesters on the road.
“Let’s say they get a hammer out or in this case, maybe a barbecue grill, which I saw one guy carrying, and trying to throw it at the car, and so your children are in the back, he’s trying to break the window to pull you out of the car, your children out of the car, which has successfully happened in Oklahoma City, where they pulled a gentleman out of a truck and beat him close to the edge of his life,” Standridge said.
However, DPS and Oklahoma City Police say they don’t recall handling a case like that.
Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore) says each case will be reviewed thoroughly.
“It will be looked at by a district attorney, and most likely would be going through the court system,” he said. “Nowadays there’s a lot of video evidence.”
Critics say the bill could have a chilling effect on free speech.
“They’re risking their lives. People will feel empowered to drive through protestors and that’s certainly scary,” Nicole McAfee, director of policy and advocacy for ACLU Oklahoma, said. “The legislature will pull out every stop and trample on our rights and liberties to ensure that white Oklahomans in their vehicle, if they are inconvenienced by a protest, which is supposed to be an inconvenience, can drive through protestors rather than for a moment feel fearful.”
The ACLU is also not ruling out legal action.
“Litigation is one of many tools in our bucket that we use time and time again to fight legislation at the Oklahoma legislature so it’s definitely on the table,” McAfee said.