Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that would make more clear the rights of drivers who strike pedestrians if they feel their lives are in danger during a riot.
State Rep. Kevin West, a Republican, introduced the measure that he said would clarify a motorist’s rights in situations where a driver is looking to flee the scene of a riot.
"It also would clarify punishments for rioters acting illegally to impede traffic or seeking harm of other individuals during the course of a riot," West said, according to KOCO.
The bill states that drivers would have the right to strike protesters or rioters if they were "under a reasonable belief that fleeing was necessary to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious injury or death" and the individuals are obstructing their path to safety.
A rioter is defined by the bill as anyone who engages in "any murder, maiming, robbery, rape or arson" during instances of civil unrest.
The bill also steepens punishment for people who participate in riots, saying anyone "who shall unlawfully obstruct the normal use of any public street, highway or road within this state by impeding, hindering or restraining motor vehicle traffic or passage thereon, by standing or approaching motor vehicles thereon, or by endangering the safe movement of motor vehicles or pedestrians traveling" can be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to a year.
“I fully agree that peaceful protests are a right of the people, and I condone anyone who wants to protest peacefully,” said state Rep. Kevin McDugle, another Republican sponsor of the bill.
“Once anyone impedes on the freedoms of others, however, the protest is no longer peaceful. I simply want to make sure people on both sides of any issue are kept safe and have the right to defend or protect their families when they feel their lives are threatened,” McDugle said.
The bill next goes to the state Senate for consideration.