Tennessee is trying to make it legal to hit protesters who are blocking roadways and other rights of way as long as you use “due caution”. The bill, was introduced Thursday and passed first consideration in the state Senate; renders someone who hits a protester who is blocking the street free from civil liability, so long as the driver was exercising ‘due care.’
The bill was likely in response to The Memphis Black Lives Matter rally last July, which shut down the I-40 bridge with hundreds of protesters refusing to leave. Traffic could not go across, including the parents of a very sick baby.
Paramedic Bobby Harrell with Crittendon EMS recounts “We received a call there was a child needing medical attention stuck in traffic up on the bridge and due to the protest going on the bridge the family was not able to get through.”
“We believe that citizens have the right to protest. There is a procedure for peaceful protests, and the purpose of that process is to protect the safety of our citizens,” Ketron said. “Protesters have no right to be in the middle of the road or our highways for their own safety and the safety of the traveling public.”
The Sheriff’s department had to escort the ambulance up the wrong way on the interstate to get to the child. A photo shows the parents, handing off their child to paramedics on the bridge.
Harrell said after he had the very sick child in the ambulance, the driver then had to go 25 minutes out of the way to get the child to the nearest hospital.
This comes after several other states including Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, and North Dakota announced that they were considering similar measures, including one Washington state lawmaker who introduced legislation that would make what he calls “economic terrorism” a class-C felony.
Washington State Sen. Doug Ericksen has been working on a bill since last November that would create a new crime of “economic terrorism” that would allow felony prosecution of protesters who block streets, cause property damage, threaten jobs and put public safety at risk in his state.
The Tennessee bill doesn’t decriminalize the act, but would provide civil immunity to the driver, so long as the driver was not driving recklessly and was exercising due care.
In a statement to local news channels, Hill insisted, “We are not endorsing anyone running over a person with a car, whether it is protesters or anyone else. If someone intentionally harms a person, they are going to be charged with a crime, period.”
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Update 4/9/17: This bill has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and will then head to the Tennessee House and Senate where it is likely to pass.
<Editors Note: The original publication of this article gave the impression that the bill has been passed and signed into law and has been corrected. This has not happened yet. It has however passed committee and is moving forward to the next phases.>