A controversial bill that would have protected drivers who plow into crowds of protesters will most likely fade away from the North Carolina legislature, a decision most certainly reached after the horrifying vehicle attack on a group of people counter-protesting Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
For some reason, in recent months several state legislatures have unveiled bills aimed at shielding people who drive into protesters from criminal and civil penalties. North Dakota’s legislature made the first attempt in the wake of the Keystone Pipeline protests after members of the Standing Rock reservation blocked a freeway. Florida and Tennessee’s legislatures introduced bills but did not continue them after a review phase, while Rhode Island and Texas currently have their bills locked up in review committees.
And North Carolina House Bill 330 would have protected drivers from lawsuits and charges as long as they proceed with “due care,” according to The New York Times.
While, if it had happened in North Carolina, this bill have may excluded James Alex Fields Jr., the suspect charged with speeding through a crowd of protesters to kill one and injure 19, the bill does not describe what carefully driving through a crowd of people would look like.
Unsurprisingly, HB 330 is receiving some extra attention after the events in Charlottesville according to the News & Observer. The original sponsors of the bill in the House have yet to ask for the Senate to take up the bill, and there seems to now be no plans to do so. Even if the bill did somehow make it through the North Carolina State Senate, Gov. Roy Cooper has already vowed to veto the bill. It seems as if HB 330 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
However, Monday morning the bill’s sponsors, North Carolina Reps. Justin Burr and Chris Millis, came to HB 330's defense and told Intercept that their legislation would not have applied to a situation like Fields’.
“It is intellectually dishonest and a gross mischaracterization to portray North Carolina House Bill 330 as a protection measure for the act of violence that occurred in Charlottesville this past weekend,” they wrote in a statement given to the news site. “Any individual who committed a deliberate or willful act, such as what happened this weekend in Charlottesville, would face appropriately severe criminal and civil liabilities.”
The idea that the gut-wrenching, racially charged violence the world witnessed over the weekend could somehow be protected by a state is horrifying.
Bizarrely, these bills have had broad support from police unions, whose endorsements tend to carry a lot of weight when election time comes around. The Florida State Fraternal Order of Police even held a press conference in support of SB 1096, which would have protected:
“...a motor vehicle operator from liability for injury or death to a person who is obstructing or interfering with traffic under certain circumstances.”
SB 1096 died in the Criminal Justice committee.
Texas State Rep. Pat Fallon, the author of a similar bill, came to his legislature’s defense in a now-deleted tweet, The Intercept reported.
Fallon’s legislation also has support from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, a large coalition made up of police associations from across the state. Police unions have made strange bedfellows with the alt-right over this issue.
Adherents to the extremist, white nationalist philosophy have praised such proposed laws across the internet. The YouTube user Donut Operator published a video in support of such laws that included a montage of people being run over by cars. If you doubt his alt-right bona fides, check out the comments section, which is a wonderland of angry white boys, all cheering for the chance to mow down human beings.