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Tennessee lawmakers propose new bill anti-Trump protesters probably won't like

Protesters march through traffic on 17th Street during the Women's March on Washington Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A Tennessee lawmaker has proposed a new bill that anti-Trump protesters probably won't like.

Republican state Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro introduced a bill Thursday that would prevent drivers who hit protesters with their vehicles from being sued if the driver was exercising "due care." Tennessee state Sen. Matthew Hill, a Republican from Jonesborough sponsored the bill, WSMV-TV reported.

The bill does not protect drivers from civil liability if their actions were "willful or wanton."

The bill was introduced after safety volunteers alleged late last month that they were hit by a man driving his SUV in Nashville. WSMV-TV reported the volunteers were wearing orange vests while escorting protesters opposed to President Donald Trump's travel ban across a crosswalk while the "walk" signal was on.

The incident happened Jan. 29 outside the offices of Tennessee's two Republican senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander. Neither senator has publicly criticized Trump's controversial immigration order, which temporarily bans travel to the U.S. from five predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Both have said the order could have been better implemented, according to the Tennessean.

Spencer DesAutels claimed to be just one of the individuals struck by the SUV. He told WSMV-TV: "They saw me. They looked right at me."

"They stopped, and then they decided that they didn't want to stop anymore and they just drove through me," DesAutels said.

DesAutels said the driver appeared to be an older man traveling with a woman. DesAutels said the woman was the wife of the driver.

Nashville Police Capt. Greg Blair told the Tennessean that the man kept driving with about five or six safety volunteers on the hood before eventually stopping 100 feet from a TigerMart gas station.

The incident was under investigation by the Nashville Police Department. NPD did not immediately respond when asked for an update on its probe and whether any charges have been filed.

Since the bill was introduced Thursday, some protesters have accused Ketron and Hill of specifically targeting them. Hill said that's nonsense.

"I am not advocating anyone being hurt or run over. That's very, very silly that anyone would think that,” Hill said. “Peaceful protesters have nothing to be concerned about. … This is an attempt to have some public safety and inject some common sense.”

"If you want to protest, fine, I am for peaceful protesting, not lawless rioters," Hill said, according to WSMV-TV. "We don't want anyone to be hurt. But people should not knowingly put themselves in harm’s way when you've got moms and dads trying to get their kids to school."

To that, Ketron added: "Protesters have no right to be in the middle of the road or our highways for their own safety and the safety of the traveling public."

If passed by the Republican-controlled Tennessee legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, the new act would take effect July 1.

WSMV Channel 4
(H/T: WTVC-TV)
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