A proposed new bill in North Dakota would exempt drivers from any liability if they “unintentionally” run over a North Dakota protester blocking traffic on a public roadway or highway.
North Dakota state Rep. Keith Kempenich, a Republican, said the bill is needed to prevent protesters from blocking roadways and to protect drivers who accidentally hit activists.
Kempenich said, “It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian. [Roads] not there for the protesters. They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger.”
The bill states, “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.”
Kempenich’s legislation protects drivers who hit protesters on the roadways from being “liable for any damages, especially those who are startled and confused by protesters and press the accelerator instead of the brakes.”
Standing Rock Chairman, Dave Archambault II, was surprised the legislation would propose the bill without first consulting the tribe:
“The state claims they want to work closely with the tribe on repairing our relationship with them,” Archambault told reporters Friday. “Clearly that is not happening when legislation that impacts us is being drafted without consultation, consent or even basic communication.”
Tara Houska, an American Indian activist associated with the North Dakota pipeline protests that has lasted months, believes the bill “criminalizes the protests” and puts people’s lives in danger.
Houska said, “It’s shocking to see legislation that allows for people to literally be killed for exercising their right to protest in a public space.”
Since the beginning of this long protest, local police have arrested over 550 people so far, including some for violent confrontations. Protesters have set nine vehicles on fire during the October protests and destroyed construction equipment.
The campground and surrounding areas are strewn with debris and burned-out vehicles all across a roadway bridge, which resulted in the closure of one of the state’s main highways.
H/T: Daily Caller
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