There’s a new Tennessee bill that seeks to address the menace surrounding protesters who block traffic. The proposal states that if an individual is blocking traffic amidst a demonstration or protest and a driver hits them, the protester will not be able to sue the driver in a civil court. However, if the actions that led to the injuries were willful, the driver would not be immune from civil liability.
The bill was introduced by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) who made a statement saying that citizens have the right to protest under the consideration of the fact that there is a procedure for peaceful protests and the sole intention of that process is to protect the safety of the citizens. Ketron also pointed out that protesters have no right to be in the middle of the road or highway for their own safety.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Mathew Hill who also made a statement pointing out that supporters of the bill are not endorsing anyone running over a person with a car. However, if someone intentionally harms a person, they are going to be charged with a crime, he also emphasized that there’s a clear difference between peacefully protesting and lawless rioters in the middle of a public roadway who jeopardize the safety of citizens. Hill also indicated that the bill was concerned with public safety in a bid to protect everyone’s right to peacefully protest, adding that he was looking forward to seeing the commonsense legislation passed into a law.
One of the women known as Katie Jacobs, who was involved in the Women’s March on Washington termed the bill as discouraging as she pointed out to the fact that part of being a citizen requires one to engage in protest when it’s necessary. Other concerned citizens also pointed out that the bill is directly harmful to people who are trying to exercise their first amendment right.
The President of the Chattanooga Tea Party Mark West made it clear that when he engaged in protest with his group, they never blocked traffic and hence the bill comes down to law enforcement. West pointed out that it’s a violation of the law to obstruct traffic and obstruct highways.
The bill comes after Metro Nashville Police investigated claims that a man drove into protesters sometime last month.