Tennessee Bill: Protesters Who Block Traffic Won’t Be Able to Sue If Accidentally Hit
A proposed bill in Tennessee is aiming at protesters who block traffic.
The bill, proposed by state Republican Senator Bill Ketron stipulates that if a person is blocking traffic during a protest or demonstration, if they’re hit, they won’t be able to file a lawsuit against the driver in a civil court for their injuries.
Specifically, the bill would provide civil immunity in court if the driver was exercising “due care,” leading up to the victim’s injuries. However, the bill doesn’t define what “due care” entails.
“We believe that citizens have the right to protest,” Ketron said in a statement, ABC News reported. “There is a procedure for peaceful protests and the purpose of that process is to protect the safety of our citizens. Protestors [sic] 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 bill, introduced last Wednesday, would not provide immunity from criminal prosecution.
Personal injury lawyer Tony Seaton told local station WYCB-TV that there would be a limited set of circumstances where drivers would be protected.
“If you accidentally but negligently run over somebody, you’re going to be responsible,” Seaton was quoted as saying. “If you intentionally run over somebody, you’re not only going to be responsible, you’re going to probably be charged criminally.”
The bill proposal comes after a rash of demonstrations against President Donald Trump broke out across the United States after he was elected and after he took office on Jan. 20.
Legislators in North Datoka, Minnesota, Indiana, and Iowa have proposed similar measures that would protect drivers who accidentally hit and injure demonstrators blocking roadways.
North Dakota state Rep. Keith Kempenich, a Republican, proposed a similar bill in his respective state.
“There’s a First Amendment right to assemble,” Kempenich explained to Fox News last week. “But there’s also the First Amendment right of people who don’t have to pay attention to it” and should be able to pass by and not be bothered.”
“When people get aggressive, then the peaceful assembly [right] protected in the First Amendment disappears,” he added.