A bill introduced recently in North Dakota would make it legal for drivers to run over protesters in the streets. This would clearly go against the First Amendment right people have to peacefully protest.
Running over protesters may soon be legal in North Dakota, if conservative lawmakers are successful in advancing legislation introduced last week.
House Bill Number 1203 (pdf) states that, “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.”
Tara Houska, an Indigenous water protector and attorney who has resided at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) resistance camps since August, told NBC News that the bill was “a direct violation of our First Amendment rights.”
“It’s shocking to see legislation that allows for people to literally be killed for exercising their right to protest in a public space,” said Houska, who also serves as the national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, an Indigenous-focused environmental nonprofit.
Water protectors at times blocked roads leading to DAPL construction sites as part of the resistance to the pipeline. Blocking traffic is also an occasional tactic of various environmental and human rights movements.
Houska also criticized another bill in the legislative lineup that would require North Dakota’s attorney general to sue the federal government to recoup some of the cost of policing the months-long DAPL protests.
“These [bills] are meant to criminalize the protests with no real concern for constitutional law,” she said.