Politicians are trying to make it legal to run over protestors with your car
With all the political turmoil America's been experiencing lately, peaceful protests have become a common way for people to express their discontent and show strength in numbers.
There's just a little problem with that though: sometimes, they block traffic.
And in Tennesse state representative Matthew Hill's mind, that's just not okay. He believes anyone not standing on a sidewalk who believes in political reform should punished, and punished hard (cue thunderclap).
Specifically, as a bill he just introduced says, they should be hit by cars.
The bill would make drivers who hit protestors with their car immune to all civic liability if the person they hit is blocking traffic in a public right-of-way. As long as the car attack "wasn't intentional" ("Oops! I just took out 14 pro-choicers!"), then the driver would be well within his legal right to stream-roll someone, even if that someone is gravely injured in the process.
“If you want to protest, fine, I am for peaceful protesting, not lawless rioters,” Hill said. “We don’t want anyone to be hurt, but people should not knowingly put themselves in harm’s way when you’ve got moms and dads trying to get their kids to school.”
Translation: "We don't want to hurt you, but if you make Jimmy late to pre-calc with your 'human rights' mumbo-jumbo, then ... feel the heat of my Prius C!"
This whole protestor-in-the-crosswalk thing has actually become a huge issue. In Nashville, several volunteers protesting Trump's travel ban were pummeled by a vehicle whose driver was pissed they were in his way.
“These people were legally in a crosswalk at the time that they had the permission to go,” said Julie Franklin, who said she witnessed the incident. She described the protestors trying to jump on his hood to get him to stop, but the man kept driving, hitting multiple people.
Spencer DesAutels was one of the volunteers who was hit.
“They saw me. They looked right at me,” DesAutels told WSMV. “They stopped, and then they decided that they didn’t want to stop anymore and they just drove through me.”
The man reportedly drove with the volunteers on the hood of his car until police made him stop.
We mean ... damn. Is that really the sort of dystopian, Ouchy McOuch-Ouch legislation Hill is trying to legalize?
“I am not advocating anyone being hurt or run over. That’s very, very silly that anyone would think that,” Hill said. “Peaceful protesters have nothing to be concerned about. … This is an attempt to have some public safety and inject some common sense.”
People aren't buying it, though. The hit-you-with-my-car-ha-ha-ha legislation is being seen more as a brash tactic to silence protestors than something genuinely meant to protect public safety.
"I think this bill shows that they’re scared. That they know that the people have a voice and it’s being heard, and they don’t like it,” said an anonymous witness who saw Nashville incident go down.
Hill and Sen. Bill Ketron, who is the co-sponsor, defended the measure by saying:
“We believe that citizens have the right to protest,” Ketron said. “There is a procedure for peaceful protests and the purpose of that process is to protect the safety of our citizens. Protesters 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.”
Here's the thing though — protestors do things like block streets and traffic because sometimes, it's the only way to get people to listen. Gathering around a courthouse and holding hands may be a more convenient method for people driving to work, but, inarguably, it just doesn't grab attention like blocking off a highway with a human wall.
There's more going on here than that, though. The sheer fact that protestors have to take use such extreme protests tactics in order to be heard is a testament to how little of a voice they're given; how little they feel listened to. Each and every time a protest shuts down a main thoroughfare, consider that. Consider how badly the issues they're representing need to be discussed if shutting down a road is the only way to make that happen. Yeah, it's inconvenient as fuck when a highway gets shut down, and it can even be life-threatening for people who may need to get to hospitals in ambulances, but ... so are the issues people shut down highways for.
Last year in L.A. (and other parts of the country), Black Lives Matter protestors shut down sections of the 405, the 101 and the 15 — all heavy-use highways responsible for the city's infamously horrific traffic — in order to protest police brutality and the rash of wrongful killings of unarmed black men.
Were those men's lives not in danger as well? Were there families not "inconvenienced" by their deaths? We're not rocket scientists or anything, but it would seem that a momentary rerouting of your morning commute is a little less inconvenient than having your son shot to death for being black.
Another example? This year's epic women's marches, the largest in U.S. history. They could not have happened had they not shut down a few streets. Sure, the flagship Washington D.C. march had street-blocking permits, but marches took place across the entire country and even world. There had to have been a few places where protestors temporarily disrupted traffic.
And sometimes you need to disrupt traffic to make a historic statement. If the women's marches were contained to one area, like a park, they might not have had the ability to grow and expand into the culturally impactful event they were.
Look ... it's already federally illegal to block traffic or intentionally obstruct pedestrian's right of way. Protestors who do that are already in violation of the law. Why add hitting them with cars to the mix?
No one gets all huffy when a highway or street is shut down for construction or because of an accident — those things are just part of life on the paved roads of America. And given that the country is in a wee bit of upheaval right now, you can pretty damn well expect that protests will become part of the fabric of vehicular life. Let's just hope the next traffic jam isn't because someone monster-trucked a Save the Whales volunteer.