Oklahoma Governor Signs Bill To Protect Drivers Fleeing A Riot
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) speaks during a roundtable at the State Dining Room of the White House June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump held a roundtable discussion with Governors and small business owners on the reopening of American’s small business. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republican Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma signed a bill on Wednesday that attempts to crack down on riots while providing protections to people who are trying to get away from a dangerous demonstration.

The bill, HB 1674, protects people who flee from a riot. It states, “A motor vehicle operator who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual shall not be criminally or civilly liable for the injury or death” if the incident occurred when the person was trying to get away from a riot and there was “reasonable belief” that they had to flee the area in order to protect themselves from serious injury or death. The motor vehicle operator must have also “exercised due care at the time of the death or injury.”

The bill also creates punishments for people who commit crimes while taking part in a riot. It states, “If any murder, maiming, robbery, rape or arson was committed in the course of such riot, such person is punishable in the same manner as a principal in such crime.”

It also cracks down on anyone who obstructs public streets, highways, or roads, making it a crime to do so and punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or by a fine between $100 and $5,000 — or by both such fine and imprisonment. “In addition,” it states, “the person shall be liable for all damages to person or property by reason of the same.”

The bill also holds organizations responsible for crimes, stating that if an organization is discovered to be a conspirator with persons who are found to have committed any of the crimes described in specific sections, “the conspiring organization shall be punished by a fine that is ten times the amount of said fine authorized by the appropriate provision.”

Last week, the bill passed the state Senate in a 38-10 vote. It was met with outrage from various groups who felt that specific pieces of legislation making their way through the state legislature were anti-protest bills.

A group of protesters was removed from the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday after they disrupted the activities of the chamber.

Adriana Laws, the president and founder of the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition, a group that organized against several bills, said, “There’s just so much going on in this session that’s wrong and it’s inherently hurtful to the people of Oklahoma and we’re not going to stand for it.”

“You cannot just run somebody over and it be okay because your justification is you felt you were threatened,” Laws said. “I feel threatened every day as a black woman in society.”

“It is our civic duty and our constitutional right to be able to stand up against our oppressor and be able to advocate in our legislature,” Laws said.

As reported by KFOR, Governor Stitt said in statement, “We are sending a message today in Oklahoma that rioters who threaten law abiding citizens’ safety will not be tolerated. I remain unequivocally committed to protecting every Oklahoman’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest as well as their right to feel safe in their community.”

Governor Stitt also signed a bill into law that will make it a criminal offense to dox law enforcement and county officials by posting their personal information online, according to KFOR. Supporters of the bill say it protects the privacy of law enforcement and county officials, while critics see it as a hindrance to accountability in controversial police interactions.

“With this bill, on the floor it was made clear that anyone posting videos or photos of law enforcement would be expected to blur out their names on badges,” Nicole McAfee, director of policy and advocacy for ACLU Oklahoma, said.

State Senator David Bullard authored the bill and said, “The problem that we run into is when public officials, especially law enforcement, are doxxed, it puts their family at risk.”

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