Tennessee spikes bill to protect drivers who hit protesters
Published 2:18 pm Thursday, May 6, 2021
NASHVILLE (AP) — A Tennessee proposal to provide legal immunity to drivers who hit protesters and increase penalties for demonstrators who obstruct major roads has stalled for the year.
The bill was among the dozen proposals Republicans across the country had submitted in an attempt to curb protests that temporarily paralyze traffic — a tactic that was used often last summer during demonstrations against racial injustice.
Oklahoma lawmakers passed a similar version earlier this year, sparking a signature gathering effort to nullify the new law in 2022.
Meanwhile, in Tennessee, looming legal concerns about the bill caused the Senate Judicial panel on Tuesday to hit pause on the proposal. Instead, the committee agreed to possibly bring it back up next year after studying the issue over the summer.
According to the legislation, drivers could receive immunity from prosecution for death or injury of a protester as long as the driver was exercising “due care.” It sparked multiple questions on how someone could unintentionally hit someone with their vehicle all while exercising “due care.”
“My intentions are not to harm someone if I’m protecting my family,” said Republican state Sen. Paul Rose, the bill’s sponsor. “Hopefully they’ll get out of the way.”
Along with the immunity provision, the bill would increase penalties for blocking a street during a demonstration, as well as throwing objects that cause bodily harm.
Rose ultimately agreed to delay moving the bill this year after after sensing that the committee agreed with some of the bill but not all of it.