Republicans Want to Legalize Hitting Protesters With a Car

Republicans in 6 states are trying to protect drivers who hit protesters

As white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed in Charlottesville on Saturday, 20-year old James Field allegedly got into his car and plowed through a crowded street, killing a 32-year old woman and injuring 19 others. Fields was arrested Saturday and charged with second-degree murder.

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As the nation mourns the death of Heather Heyer, murdered by a domestic terrorist and neo-nazi in a car, Lawmakers in at least six GOP-controlled states have pushed for laws that would shield drivers from prosecution who hit protesters.

Legislation is being considered to ultimately legalize hitting and running over protesters who block roadways, the answer to frequent calls from anti-protest Republicans. Two Republican lawmakers in North Dakota started the trend in January when they introduced a bill that would protect motorists who hit pedestrians blocking traffic, as long as the consequences are unintentional.

In Tennessee, lawmakers proposed a measure to protect drivers from civil liability after a motorist ran into safety workers at a rally against President Trump’s travel ban in Nashville. Police said that five or six protesters ended up on top of an SUV before the driver, who was not arrested, left the scene.

According to The Outline, lawmakers in Florida, Rhode Island, and Texas have also flirted with similar measures this year. In Florida, a bill died in committee that would have prohibited lawsuits against drivers who “unintentionally” hit protesters, putting the burden of proof on the protesters. A proposal in Rhode Island, meanwhile, has been held for “further study.” And a bill in Texas, proposed in July, was recently referred to committee.

Shielding drivers from liability is not the only way Republican states have attempted to crack down on peaceful protests since the start of the Trump presidency. According to the Washington Post, Republican lawmakers in at least 18 states have introduced bills to crack down on protesters. Among those proposals are bills that would allow cities to sue protesters in order to collect money to pay police forces required at demonstrations, increase the potential penalty for nonviolent demonstrations, and increase fines against picketers.