Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) signed a bill into law that would ultimately protect drivers who injure or kill protesters while attempting to flee the scene of demonstrations. The law also imposes more rigid penalties for protesters obstructing public roadways.
According to KHOU, House Bill (HB) 1674 signed the controversial bill on Wednesday, April 21 after the state's Republican-led Senate voted 38-10 in favor of the measure last week. Under the new law, it is considered "a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine for anyone who obstructs a public street during the course of a protest, according to the legislation."
It also notes that "drivers cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for killing or injuring a protestor if they are "fleeing from a riot," and there is "reasonable belief" that they are in danger."
"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," Stitt said.
The bill comes as various, nationwide debates are taking place all across the country. Police brutality, racial inequality, voting rights, and the right to peaceful protest and demonstration have all been critical topics of discussion that remain strong points of contention in the United States.
In fact, a group protesting the controversial bill was granted access to the House Chambers located inside the Oklahoma State Capitol. Once the group left the Capitol building the session resumed.