NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A newly proposed bill states drivers would get immunity from civil liability if they hit and injured a protester blocking roads.
House Bill 0668 was sponsored by Representative Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, and Senator Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro. The bill would apply if the person driving the vehicle was exercising due care and struck the protester blocking traffic in the public right-of-way.
The bill does not protect the driver if he or she willingly struck the protester, which is already against the law.
HB0668, which was only filed on Thursday, has concerned some lawmakers and group leaders who fear it would be an excuse for drivers to "mow down" protesters.
"People have been protesting their government as the highest form of patriotism for over 200 years. It's disturbing that people in this Legislator think that we should give people the right to hurt them without facing any consequences," Senator Jeff Yarbro said.
"I think it makes me sad, it's like we're going backwards and we have real problems in this state. This is not a good use of my tax money to pay for these people to talk about running over protesters," Sidney Bennett of Progressive Democrats of America told NewsChannel 5.
Over the last year, dozens and even hundreds of protesters took their message to the streets of Nashville, whether it's rallying against President Donald Trump or gathering for the Black Lives Matter movement.
In Tennessee, it is an offense to obstruct highways and streets to the public. Although many of the rallies in Nashville have continued to block major roads and intersections with law enforcement supervision.
Nashville attorney David Raybin told NewsChannel 5 that there are better ways to approach the issue with the help of law enforcement.
The bill does not elaborate further on the interpretation of due care but Raybin said it should be left up to the courts.
"The issue of due care is a jury question, you can't determine that at the front end normally. I don't think we want these things decided in the streets, that's what police officers are for," Raybind added.
The bill said the act shall take effect July 1, 2017, the public welfare requiring it.
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