HB 1674 applies to any driver “who unintentionally causes injury or death while fleeing a riot” so the driver is “not to be held criminally or civilly liable.”
Such has been the case in several recent situations where leftist groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa have intentionally blocked roadways, leading to massive traffic backups and dangerous road conditions.
After Oklahoma saw large-scale demonstrations during a speech by then-President Donald Trump last year, state lawmakers said the legislation was an essential deterrent amid the rising tide of radical activism and violence.
“This is an important protection for citizens who are just trying to get out of a bad situation,” State Rep. Kevin West said. “When fleeing an unlawful riot, they should not face threat of prosecution for trying to protect themselves, their families or their property.”
The bill also updates state law to classify “unlawful obstruction of a road or highway” as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison or a $5,000 fine.
The bill passed in a 38-10 vote in the Oklahoma state Senate.
GOP Sen. Rob Standridge, who wrote the bill, said the bill arose following an incident in Tulsa last summer. A pickup truck drove through a crowd protesting George Floyd’s death on the interstate, resulting in multiple injuries and one person paralyzed from the waist down.
Oklahoma’s legislature was one of at least 16 that planned to put forward bills to address the growing problem.
“If you look at the breadth of this particular piece of legislation, it is the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country,” said Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, after signing a similar law for his state.
“There’s just nothing even close,” DeSantis said.
However, the Florida law already faces a federal lawsuit from pro-riot activists.
“The purpose of these laws are nothing more than an attempt to silence the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil organizations by limiting the ability to protest,” claimed Aaron Carter Bates, the attorney representing the activists, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Oklahoma’s bill may face similar opposition. A group of activists protested at the state Capitol on Wednesday. At least two were removed from the building by members of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.