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North Carolina Republicans Pass Bill To Protect Drivers Who Hit Protesters With Their Cars

DEMOCRACY

North Carolina Republicans Pass Bill To Protect Drivers Who Hit Protesters With Their Cars

Republicans in North Carolina’s House of Representatives introduced a bill that would grant legal protections for drivers who hit protesters that are blocking the roadway.

Approving House Bill 330 68-48 in a party-line vote on Wednesday, Republicans the News Observer notes that the bill comes in response to protests last fall in Charlotte over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

“These people are nuts to run in front of cars like they do … and say, ‘me and my buddy here are going to stop this two-and-a-half-ton vehicle,’” said Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican and a supporter of the bill. “If somebody does bump somebody, why should they be held liable?”




HOUSE BILL 330 reads:

AN ACT PROVIDING THAT A PERSON DRIVING AN AUTOMOBILE WHILE EXERCISING DUE CARE IS IMMUNE FROM CIVIL LIABILITY FOR ANY INJURY TO ANOTHER IF THE INJURED PERSON WAS PARTICIPATING IN A PROTEST OR DEMONSTRATION AND BLOCKING TRAFFIC IN A PUBLIC STREET OR HIGHWAY AT THE TIME OF THE INJURY.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Justin Burr of Albemarle, defended his bill by saying drivers wouldn’t be allowed to deliberately run over protesters.

“This bill does not allow for the driver of a vehicle to target protesters intentionally,” he said. “It does protect individuals who are rightfully trying to drive down the road.”

N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin called the bill a “shockingly horrible and dangerous piece of legislation.”

“One of the cornerstones of American democracy is the right to peacefully assemble and demonstrate, but with this bill, North Carolina Republicans are giving motorists a free pass to run over protestors without any fear of civil liability,” Goodwin said in a news release. “This legislation is antithetical to our values and risks causing bodily harm to peaceful protestors.”

News Observer reports:

Democrats said the bill raises constitutional concerns because it applies only to situations in which the person hit “is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic.”

“If you want to do something, you need to clear up the bill,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat. “It basically is plain and pure unconstitutional.”

Rep. Robert Reives, a Sanford Democrat, said the state’s current laws make the bill unnecessary.

“I don’t know in what universe a person can run out in front of a car, and they’re going to win a personal injury case in North Carolina,” said Reives, who is an attorney.

Speciale said drivers need protection, particularly if they’re trying to reach the emergency room. “I like protesting, I like stirring it up, but I do it within the confines of the law,” he said.




A final vote on the bill is scheduled for Thursday.

h/t: DailyKos

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