*James Alex Fields Jr., the guy who rammed his car into protesters in Charlottesville killing Heather Heyer and injuring others, has been charged with murder and five counts of malicious wounding.
But if some state lawmakers had their way Fields wouldn’t be facing any criminal charges. That’s because six states want to pass laws that will protect drivers who hit protesters. Yes, you read it correctly!
Republican lawmakers in six states are pushing legislation to protect drivers who hit protesters when those protesters block traffic without permits. Never mind the freedom to assemble and freedom of speech laws protected under the U.S. Constitution.
Republican state representative Keith Kempenich sponsored the bill in North Dakota. He called protesters terrorists! He said when they block cars from passing, essentially they create intentional acts of intimidation, which – he said – is the definition of terrorism.
Although some people might agree that protesters who block traffic without a permit should face some form of punishment, disrupting the lives of those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo is the best way to initiate change. Changing the laws to protect people who use violence against conscientious objectors is itself intimidation.
These state house bills were introduced around the same time that citizens started to use their right to assemble for Black Lives Matter rallies and to protest against things such as President Donald Trump’s travel ban and against police brutality. Instead of upholding the U.S. Constitution, some lawmakers choose to use their political power to villainize their constituents.
If the law was in effect in North Dakota and Fields just happened to have killed or injured protesters there or in the five other states that want to protect people like him, he could use the ‘I felt threatened’ defense just like the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in effect around the country. You remember SYG, the one that allowed George Zimmerman to get away with murdering Trayvon Martin. Although it never was used as an official defense in Zimmerman’s murder trial (because doing so would’ve required Zimmerman to testify and he didn’t want to), jurors said SYG was why they acquitted him, but I digress.
Besides North Dakota, Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas have their own versions of the proposed law that would make it okay for drivers to hit protesters blocking a thoroughfare without a permit. But the Charlottesville incident pointed the spotlight on those proposals before they could get them passed. Now some or all of them might be voted down due to bad publicity. If you live in one of these states or you know people who do, make them aware of what’s going on.
And if you live in Texas like I do here’s more news from the ‘I can’t believe these people are in charge of making laws’ file:
Starting September 1 an open carry law against knives with blades longer than five and half inches will go away. That means people legally can walk the streets with blades as long as samurai swords! Last June state lawmakers on both sides voted down the current law that made it illegal for anyone to carry a knife with a blade longer than five and half inches. Police said it was hard to enforce that law because determining the length of the blade was subjective. So legislators decided to make it open season for knives of any size. At least with open carry gun laws you have to have a permit.
Even though open carry laws for knives and guns are on the books in Texas, there are still some establishments where they are banned, including churches, courthouses, hospitals and schools.
Other states are looking at passing the same kind of bill. Do your research in your state. It might be too late to stop it, but we all should be aware of current laws so can make informed decisions for ourselves and our loved ones.
These are just a few of the laws that state lawmakers (try to) get passed without notice because people are so preoccupied with the musical chairs debacle at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or worrying about the latest reality TV show.
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] for comments, questions and speaking inquiries.