Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline are shocked over bills introduced by GOP lawmakers which would criminalize road protests, restrict what protesters can wear, and allow the federal govt. to be sued to cover enforcement costs. Among the bills, one would exempt drivers from liability if they unintentionally injure or kill a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road or highway.
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GOP Rep. Keith Kempenich crafted the driver exemption bill after his 72-year-old mother-in-law was blocked by protesters waving signs on a roadway.
Another bill would make it a crime for an adult to wear face masks.
State Republicans said the bills introduced last week were motivated by residents’ frustration with the ongoing protests in the southern part of the state which at times saw a thousand-strong encampment opposing the building of the $3.8 billion four-state pipeline.
“When people are having their lives disrupted, you’re going to see things move up here,” Senator Kelly Armstrong, an oil company executive, and state Republican chair told AP. “It’s very difficult to write ‘protest laws.’ We need to make sure there is reasonable application of the law in all circumstances, whether protest-related or not.”