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Oklahoma House passes bill that would protect motorists who hit protesters while fleeing a riot

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The bill also 'would clarify punishments for rioters acting illegally to impede traffic or seeking harm of other individuals during the course of a riot'

Protesters converge upon a pickup truck on an Interstate 244 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 31, 2020. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would protect drivers who hit protesters while fleeing a riot and also would update punishment for rioters, KOCO-TV reported.

What are the details?

House Bill 1674 would create a new section of law to protect motor vehicle operators fleeing a riot under a reasonable belief their actions were necessary to protect them from serious injury or death, the station said, citing a news release, adding that it also would update language relating to those convicted of illegal activity during riots.

"Last summer, during the height of violent riots that were sweeping the nation, resulting in loss of life and millions of dollars in property damage, a motorist in Oklahoma traveling with his wife and two school-aged children was surrounded by aggressive protesters in the roadway," GOP state Rep. Kevin West said, KOCO reported. "The protesters beat at his truck and threw things at it, scaring both him and his family. The driver was severely chastised for trying to hurt the protesters, and he even faced the possibility of criminal charges for his actions in attempting to evade the protestors."

Here's a clip of the incident to which West referred:

Truck drives through crowd of protesters in Tulsa youtu.be

West added that "this measure would clarify a motorist's rights in a similar situation going forward. It also would clarify punishments for rioters acting illegally to impede traffic or seeking harm of other individuals during the course of a riot," the station said.

Bill co-author Kevin McDugle, another Republican state representative, said, "I fully agree that peaceful protests are a right of the people, and I condone anyone who wants to protest peacefully. Once anyone impedes on the freedoms of others, however, the protest is no longer peaceful. I simply want to make sure people on both sides of any issue are kept safe and have the right to defend or protect their families when they feel their lives are threatened," KOCO reported.

More from the station:

HB 1674 states that every person who unlawfully obstructs – or makes impassable or hazardous – the normal use of any public street, highway or road within Oklahoma by impeding, hindering or restraining motor vehicle traffic or passengers, by endangering the safe movement of motor vehicles or pedestrians shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding one year, or by a fine of not less than $100 and not exceeding $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment. In addition, the person shall be liable for all damages to person or property, according to the news release.

The measure also addresses organizations found to have conspired with people found guilty of committing crimes under rioting statutes, officials said. Those organizations shall be fined 10 times the amount authorized by the appropriate provision.

The bill passed 79-18, KOCO reported, adding that it now goes to the state Senate where it was authored by Republican Rob Standridge.

Similar legislation was introduced in Missouri by a Republican state senator in January.

What else do we know about the Tulsa incident?

While the media tried to portray the motorist as the bad guy and the Tulsa protesters attacking his vehicle as victims, a state prosecutor actually decided to not charge the motorist and instead was looking at whether to prosecute some of the protesters, the Associated Press reported last July.

The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office asked the Highway Patrol to identify protesters from photos and videos for possible prosecution for doing what District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler described as "using weapons and throwing projectiles and damaging the property of this family" in the vehicle, the AP said.

More from the AP:

Attorney Jonathan Nation, who represents one of three people who were injured during the May 31 protest, told the Tulsa World on Thursday that Kunzweiler's stance is "essentially blaming the protesters and essentially blaming the victims for their own injuries."

The newspaper obtained a memo from Kunzweiler in which he said: "Although the claim may be that this was a peaceful protest, there was nothing peaceful about the targeting and attack upon this family." The driver's name has not been released.
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