OKLAHOMA CITY – After a Summer of Black Lives Matter protests across the nation and within the state, the Oklahoma Senate Public Safety Committee has passed a bill that would legally protect drivers fleeing protesters.
Eight out of nine legislators voted to move Senate Bill 560 to a full vote on the Senate floor, with the committee’s only Democrat, Senator Michael Brooks, voting against the measure.
SB 560 would add to Oklahoma’s self-defense law. It states: “A person, who lawfully is in an occupied vehicle that is approached and surrounded by a person or persons engaged in unlawful activity who has blocked the road, shall not be subject to criminal or civil prosecution for a reasonable effort to escape from the unlawful activity with or without damage to the vehicle.”
Oklahoma’s version of what the American Civil Liberties Union calls “hit and run” bills joins a chorus of mostly Southern states forcefully responding to the country’s largest racial justice protests. Nebraska, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Rhode Island, Kentucky, and Mississippi have all introduced similar legislation in recent days, according to an analysis by the Intercept.
But Oklahoma is no stranger to these types of violent acts against protesters. Tulsa prosecutors refused to press charges against a man who drove his trailer through a crowd of activists in June of 2020 amidst George Floyd-inspired uprisings, resulting in a man falling off the highway and becoming paralyzed from the waist down.
The bill’s author, Senator Nathan Dahm, revealed his motivations in an interview with KOCO, saying “Drivers in these situations should not be held liable or responsible for injury by trying to escape a threatening and dangerous situation. I strongly support the right to peacefully protest, but when these protests turn violent, citizens should have every right to protect themselves and their property.”
Curiously, the Senator draws his inspiration for SB 560 from racial justice protests last Summer that were deemed 93% peaceful, yet makes no mention of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol a few weeks ago, when a white supremacist mob attempted to overthrow the government and threatened to assassinate members of Congress.
The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association (OK2A) is an active gun-rights organization who claimed responsibility for the bill’s creation.
“Senator Nathan Dahm passed two request bills for OK2A this week,” an OK2A member announced roughly a minute into a Facebook Live update. He went on to describe Senate Bill 560, saying “For those that are unlawfully blocking the roadway, this bill will be known as I will tread on you.”