In response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, one lawmaker in North Dakota has introduced a bill that would shield drivers from liability if they unintentionally hurt or kill a protester. The dangerous piece of legislation seeks to undermine a legitimate form of protest and could incite violence against activists.
“[Roads are] not there for the protesters,” State Rep. Keith Kempenich, who introduce the legislation told the Bismark Tribune. “They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger."
He said, on one occasion, about 100 cars were parked along a road in Morton County and his mother-in-law was passing through and slowed down. He said at one point an individual jumped out in front of the vehicle and was waving a sign.
Kempenich said one should consider what might happen if someone panics when coming upon a group of people gathered along a public roadway. He said an unintentional tragedy may occur “if they’d have punched the accelerator rather than the brakes.”
It's unclear if the bill will go anywhere. House Majority Leader Al Carlson told the local paper that he wasn't involved in the effort and the legislature "won’t violate the right to peaceful protest," but he also said lawmakers need to consider making changes to what law enforcement can do in response to the protests. While it'd be nice to think he's talking about curbing the aggressive police tactics that many of the #NoDAPL water protectors faced, his previous comments about protesters putting a strain on law enforcement strongly suggest that is not the case.