This past Wednesday, Kevin Stitt, Republican Governor of Oklahoma signed a bill that aims to crack down on riots and giving protections to citizens who are trying to flee from the dangerous demonstrations.
Titled HB 1674, the new bill seeks to protect 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 event occurred when the person was attempting to flee from any riot and there was “reasonable belief” it was necessary to flee the area in order to prevent themselves from receiving serious injury or death. The operator of the vehicle must have also, “exercised due care at the time of the death or injury.”
The document creates repercussions for those who commit any crimes while taking part in a riot, as well. Stating, “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 implements repercussions for those who obstruct any public streets, highways, or roads, making it a criminal offense to do and will be punishable by one-year imprisonment for a fine between $100 to $5,000, or both a fine and imprisonment. It goes on to state, “the person shall be liable for all damages to person or property by reason of the same.”
The bill also places holds groups and organizations responsible for any such crimes committed, staging that if a group is discovered to be with anyone who is found to be committing 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.”
This past week, the bill passed through the state’s Senate with a 38-10 vote. Its passing was met with much criticism from various groups that felt that specific pieces of legislation making their way through the state legislature were anti-protest bills.
This past Wednesday, a group of protesters were removed from the Oklahoma House of Representatives after they intruded and disrupted the activities going on in the chamber.
The president and founder of the collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition, Adriana Laws, stated, “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 continued. “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 concluded.
According to KFOR, Governor Stitt stated, “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.”