The Oklahoma chapter of the NAACP has filed a lawsuit challenging a bill passed in the state's GOP-led legislature that will crack down on protests, The Associated Press reported.
In the filed lawsuit, the Oklahoma chapter of the NAACP, the National NAACP and the Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection argue that the new law violates citizens' right to protest in the state under the First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The legislation, H.B. 1764, grants motorists criminal and civil immunity if they hit protesters who are blocking roadways and will send penalties to national organizations who provide help for those found guilty.
The president of the NAACP's Oklahoma chapter, Anthony Douglas, said in a statement that the government would rather focus on silencing those who are fighting for injustice, according to the AP.
“Last year, the country watched a video of a man being brutally murdered by law enforcement,” Douglas said, referring to the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020. “Rather than trying to prevent such future injustices in this state, Oklahoma dedicated its efforts to silencing those who fight against injustice.”
The new law, which will go into effect on Nov. 1, stems from an incident in 2020 in which a driver pulling a trailer drove through a crowd of protesters in Tulsa, Okla., protesting Floyd's death. The incident lead to the injury of several protesters, including one person who was paralyzed from the waist down, according to the AP.
State Rep. Kevin West (R), an author of the bill, told the newswire that the legislation is meant to target rioters, not peaceful demonstrators.
“House Bill 1674 protects law abiding citizens who find themselves caught in the midst of dangerous and illegal actions at no fault of their own,” West said in an email. “This law maintains the constitutional right to peaceably assemble while also reinforcing our citizen’s rights to be secure in their life, liberty and property.”