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Last summer, all across the nation massive protests were held in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. In fact, every single state in the U.S. had protests demanding justice to hold those accountable for the killings and for change to come in the way people of color, Black people especially, are treated by law enforcement.
Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to put an end to that first amendment right.
The House and Senate have passed a set of bills meant to discourage a proven method of protest and one that is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Oklahoma bills criminalize peaceful protest
HB 1674 was passed in the Oklahoma House of Rep. on March 10 by a 79-18 vote. This bill makes it a crime to “unlawfully obstruct the normal use of any public street, highway or road”.
SB 560 was passed in the Oklahoma Senate on March 9 by a 36-8 vote. The bill gives drivers of a vehicle “immunity” from “criminal or civil prosecution” if their vehicle is “approached and surrounded by a person or persons” and they hit that person causing injury or death. That means that all a driver has to say is they had a reasonable fear and they will not be subject to prosecution.
Both bills spit in the face of the right to assemble that is protected by the first amendment. Not even two months after these lawmakers shared their favorite MLK Jr. quote and image, they are passing laws that would’ve made MLK and his peers criminals and put them at risk for their lives.
With both bills sent to the opposite chamber, they seem all but sure to pass.