OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Senate passed a bill Wednesday aimed at protecting drivers who hit protestors while “fleeing a riot.”
House Bill 1674, authored Rep. Kevin West (R-Moore) and co-authored by Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-Broken Arrow) would also change the potential punishment for rioters.
Oklahoma Democrats argued before the vote that the bill’s definition of a “riot” could lead to the punishment of innocent bystanders or peaceful protesters.
Sen. Kevin Matthews (D-Tulsa) argued Wednesday that the definition of a riot is important as the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was once referred to as a “riot.”
The bill comes almost a year after a driver pulling a trailer drove through a crowd of protesters on I-244 in Tulsa, forcing them to the edges of the overpass where one person fell off. The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against the driver.
Oklahoma Republicans argue the bill protects people like that driver and his family who were in the middle of the unorganized protest on the I-244 bridge.
“The kids cowered in the back seat because they feared for their lives,” Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman) said.
“That’s what this bill is about.”
It passed through the Senate with a 38-10 vote, sending it to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk for final approval.