In response to the protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline, one lawmaker, Keith Kempenich, has introduced a bill that would allow drivers to run down protesters blocking roads without any kind of penalty. His inspiration? His mother-in-law was startled by a protester in the road who he claims jumped in front of her car.
While Kempenich claims the bill would simply protect drivers who unintentionally collide with protesters through no fault of their own, it’s not much of a stretch to see how this law could be manipulated to allow security personnel and construction workers to simply mow down protestors with impunity.
This is just one of several bills that have recently been introduced in the state legislature attempting to discourage protests. One would make it a crime for adults to wear masks at protests, while another would require the state’s attorney general to sue the federal government for more than $22 million in order to reimburse law enforcement costs.
Tara Houska, a Native American activist at Oceti Sakowin camp, told NBC News, “It’s shocking to see legislation that allows for people to literally be killed for exercising their right to protest in a public space. These [bills] are meant to criminalize the protests with no real concern for constitutional law.”
While these proposed laws may seem outlandish, they shouldn’t surprise anyone. The state has already attempted to fine anyone bringing food and supplies to protestors up to $1,000 per incident, and police brutally attacked protesters back in November, injuring hundreds of people. It seems the state is determined to everything in its power to ignore the health and safety concerns of its own residents.
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