The Oklahoma state house passed a measure on Wednesday to protect drivers who mistakenly hit protesters who gather in roadways to disrupt or shut down traffic.
The bill, which passed along party lines in the Republican-controlled house, provides criminal immunity for motorists who unintentionally hurt or kill individuals while "fleeing from a riot." It also makes it a misdemeanor to "unlawfully obstruct" roadways and establishes punishments for any organization involved in planning riots.
"This bill simply says, ‘please stay to the peaceful protests,'" said Rep. Kevin McDugle (R). "Don't block roads. Don't impede on the freedoms of others."
Over the last year, there have been multiple incidences where drivers have been criminally charged after striking protesters and rioters. A woman was arrested after she panicked and drove through a crowd that had surrounded her car.
Oklahoma Republicans cited a local case in Tulsa where a driver hit Black Lives Matter protesters blocking a highway. In that incident, the driver was surrounded by the crowd while numerous protesters threw objects at his windshield and windows.
State Democrats fiercely opposed the measure, with Rep. Monroe Nichols saying lawmakers needed to focus on "the broader systemic issue" of criminal justice that led to the protests.