New legislation, if passed, would allow people to negligently drive cars into Dakota Access Pipeline protesters without getting into trouble.
WDAZ-TV reported that some believe the new bill is “basically giving permission for vehicular homicide” and that a second legislative proposal to ban masks could be unconstitutional.
This comes as clashes with law enforcement escalated again on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with Water Protectors claiming a protester was struck by a law enforcement snowmobile and taken to the hospital.
The North Dakota legislator who is proposing the law says it wouldn’t apply to people who strike Water Protectors at DAPL intentionally.
That legislator is Keith Kempenich, a state representative, and you can read the bill here. There is a second bill that would make “it a crime for adults to wear masks in most cases,” since some Water Protectors have shielded their identities, reported Native Times, which says Republicans have a “super majority” in the North Dakota Legislature.
A Republican from Bowman, Kempenich has proposed legislation that says the following, according to KFYR-TV:
A driver of a motor vehicle who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual obstructing vehicular traffic on a public road, street, or highway is not guilty of an offense.
According to KFYR, Kempenich claims his relatives have been harassed by protesters and is worried an accident will occur. “The first amendment, it allows for peaceful assembly, but it also allows for people to ignore it too. I think that’s where it started to get more aggressive, and that’s where this bill came from,” he told the television station. The lawmaker told the Star Tribune: “This bill puts the onus on somebody who’s made a conscious decision to put themselves in harm’s way.”
The proposal has some support from Kempenich’s colleagues in the Legislature but a hearing is not yet scheduled on it, the Star Tribune reported.
The Native Times reported that the legislator was angry because “his 72-year-old mother-in-law was blocked by protesters waving signs on a roadway” and quoted him as saying, “They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger.”
Meanwhile, one of the largest DAPL protests in months erupted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and it led to more dramatic imagery of clashes with law enforcement.
Protesters said on social media that police were tear gassing them. The Grand Forks Herald reported that protesters had cut through barbed wire and at least three were arrested and WDAZ reported that about 200 protesters confronted police at a drill pad.
The $3.8 billion oil pipeline would traverse four states but its construction has been bogged down for months as a result of dramatic protests near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. Protesters – called Water Protectors – and the Standing Rock tribe say the pipeline project would endanger water sources and imperil cultural heritage sites; the pipeline’s supporters say it will bring jobs and boost the economy, decreasing reliance on foreign oil. Tensions have risen to the degree that people allegedly made threats to the former Republican governor and local sheriff and protesters have claimed various injuries over the past few months. More than 550 protesters have been arrested since last summer in conjunction with the protests, the Daily Caller reported.
The U.S. Army Corp and the Obama Administration “denied a key easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)” last month, but president-elect Donald Trump’s administration is not expected to be as sympathetic, reported EcoWatch.