This year America has seen an interesting and terrifying new technique for dealing with protesters. Republicans, buoyed by their base’s enthusiasm for physically harming people who inconvenience them, took a hard look at all of the things being protested across the country. They saw natives at Standing Rock, young African-Americans at Black Lives Matter rallies, and a pretty wide assortment at Donald Trump’s inauguration, and they decided the best way to deal with it was to hit them with cars.
That’s not hyperbole. I guarantee you have had at least one argument on Facebook with a relative or old high school friend who sees pictures of protests and jokes about running over the people in the streets. The GOP decided to codify that behavior by writing laws that would reduce or remove penalties for drivers who do just that.
Beginning with North Dakota, lawmakers in six states began to pen a series of proposals that all looked very similar to each other. House Bill 1203 would set the tone:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a driver of a motor vehicle who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway, is not guilty of an offense.
Similar laws cropped up in Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas. These heartless laws were part of a larger effort by Republicans to stifle dissent on a larger scale; a proposal in Oregon would have required schools to expel protesters even peripherally involved in a riot, while one in Ferguson, Missouri — the heartland of the Black Lives Matter movement — would have created an offense called “unlawful traffic interference” with which protesters could be charged if they stood in the path of any important white people on their way to do important white people things.
It took until the murder of Heather Heyer for Fox Nation to take down a video posted in humor on their website entitled “Here’s A Reel Of Cars Plowing Through Protesters Trying To Block The Road.”
But even after the events of this last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, those GOP legislators are still defending their bills. On Sunday, Texas Rep. Pat Fallon was wondering if “the far left” knew the difference between a street and a highway. He deleted his social media posts, but his proposal remains:
A person operating a motor vehicle who injures another person with the motor vehicle is not liable for the injury if, at the time of the injury:(1) the person operating the motor vehicle was exercising due care; and (2) the person injured was blocking traffic in a public right-of-way while participating in a protest or demonstration.
Any wild guesses what it might take in Texas to prove you were “exercising due care” when you hit that troublesome agitator?
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