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The “run over a protester” bill

This was from a day or two after the racist violence in Charlottesville, which included the vehicular murder of a counterprotester.

Rep. Pat Fallon

Last month, Rep. Pat Fallon filed legislation to protect motorists who hit demonstrators “blocking traffic in a public right-of-way” if the driver exercises “due care.” House Bill 250 would protect drivers against civil liability only but would not lessen criminal penalties for deadly hit-and-runs, a second-degree felony in Texas.

Fallon’s bill has no chance of passing this summer. Lawmakers are scheduled to gavel out the month-long summer special session on Wednesday without even holding a hearing on the measure.

Nevertheless, by Monday morning, the Frisco Republican said he’d received “hundreds” of angry responses from people upset over the events this weekend in Virginia, especially the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old protester struck and killed by a driver who also injured at least 19 other people.

James Alex Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio man who rallied with white supremacist groups on Saturday, has been charged with her murder as well as malicious wounding and failing to stop at a crash site that resulted in a death. Fallon said his legislation would not have protected someone like Fields from criminal charges. He blasted the white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville.

“Any jackass that thinks they’re going to be cool because they’re a Nazi, are you serious?” Fallon told The Dallas Morning News. “There’s no room for that,” he added, calling Heyer’s death “horrific.”

Fallon added he was “incredibly offended” that people tied his bill to Fields and those like him.

[…]

Representatives with the ACLU in Texas and North Carolina, where similar legislation is being debated, said Fallon’s bill was intended to discourage free speech and assembly.

“The flavor and tenor of this is to quell protest,” said Karen Anderson, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “It is to essentially set up a structure where you protest at your own risk (and) there is a shield for motorists who choose, which happened just recently, to use their vehicle as a literal bludgeon.”

She expressed concern over why the proposal does not define “due care,” and questioned how protesters could prove they were hit intentionally if there was no video footage of the incident, like there was in Charlottesville.

Matt Simpson, a police specialist with the ACLU of Texas, acknowledged Fallon’s bill would not lessen criminal penalties for drivers who intentionally kill pedestrian protesters. But he said the bill would be difficult to implement if it became law and would send “a terrible message” to Texans.

“This is obviously more symbolic than meaningful,” said Simpson. He said he was unaware of anyone who had sued a Texas driver who accidentally hit protesters. “This seems like a solution in search of a problem.”

Seems like there’s a lot of that these days. Rep. Fallon pitched a fit when people pointed out his bill and the potential it had for making life easier for someone who might feel the need to dish out a little four-wheeled havoc. Maybe don’t file such morally vacant bills in the future? Just a thought. All I can say is that if he files the same thing in 2019, he’ll definitely have learned nothing from this experience.

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10 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    This absolutely needs to pass. These protestors intentionally blocking traffic create an untenable situation for motorists, especially if protestors surround the car on all sides. Do you sit and wait to be pulled out of your car and beaten, or do you at least try to save yourself and your family by running over some of them to escape?

    Blocking traffic is interfering with interstate commerce, and as such, people who do it ought to be charged with a federal crime.

    If you want to protest on a street, get a permit to do just that, and let the police set up barricades to protect both motorists and the protest group.

    It’s a pretty simple concept. If protestors choose mob rule, motorists shouldn’t be punished for taking charge of their own personal security.

    “The flavor and tenor of this is to quell protest,” said Karen Anderson…

    No, Karen, the flavor and tenor of this is to keep people from illegally blocking streets and menacing innocent motorists.

  2. Ross says:

    Bill, why should I have to get a permit to protest? Wouldn’t denial of a permit be denying my right to freely assemble?

    Interfering with interstate commerce? That’s just hilarious.

    I will say that with the changes Fallon suggested would have happened in committee, where the bill would be modified to apply only to roads with a speed limit of 55 mph or more, would be much more acceptable, although current law would probably absolve a motorist from liability if a crowd of protestors came running into a freeway in a manner that made hitting them unavoidable.

    In the situation you describe, Bill, the driver would have to take their chances in civil court, and, perhaps, criminal court.

  3. Flypusher says:

    Bill, if somebody in a car is indeed attacked by an angry mob, and has to hit the gas and run over people to escape, we already have a system in place to deal with that. It’s called the justice system.

  4. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    Oh, no, Flypusher. Each year, thousands of reactionaries imagine motorists being pulled from their vehicles and savagely brutalized by Tusken Protestors (easily startled, but they’ll soon be back, and in greater numbers). It is the great fear of our time, and the police do nothing because the police are entirely supportive of movements such as Black Lives Matter, in the imaginations of reactionaries.
    Remember, Bill thinks James Fields acted in self-defense.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross,

    You have a right to protest, but not to shut down streets any time you please.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    Robbie,,

    Change running over protesters to statues and your argument gets better. Which one is a bigger problem, Q10 blocking 288 or a statue?

  7. Paul Kubosh says:

    Ross…the right to protest is not absolute. The law is clear that if you are going to block streets in your protest then you are in violation of the law.

  8. M@ says:

    So, can we run over the abortion protesters, or do they get their own category as usual?

  9. Bob says:

    Speaking of throwing a fit, I just got blocked from Rep. Fallon’s facebook page for bringing up the fact that pedestrians are already not allowed to be on a freeway.

  10. Bill Daniels says:

    @M@:

    If those abortion protestors are blocking the street and won’t move, run them down. They have it oming.

    @Bob:

    Too bad this group didn’t follow the law:

    http://media.culturemap.com/crop/77/a6/300×300/Quanell-X-Trayvon-Martin-Freeway-288-protest_224920_jcrop_1x1_Mon15Jul2013234327.png