Keith Kempenich has introduced a new bill that states a driver “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.”
Kempenich admits that the bill is in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, stating that House Bill 1203 was needed after protestors blocked several roadways in Morton County.
Stating that the roadways are “not there for the protestors,” Kempenich says the bill will shift “the burden of proof from the motor vehicle to the pedestrian.”
The Republican lawmaker also accused the water protectors of “intentionally putting themselves in danger.”
His personal experience stems from his mother-in-law being startled when a protestor emerged from a blindspot and jumped in front of her car when she was driving on a road through the protests.
Kempenich is one of seven Republican lawmakers backing the bill. The others are Michael Brandenburg, Vernon Laning, Bill Oliver, Karen Rohr, Dwight Cook and Donal Schaible.
As Tara Houska, a native activist who works with Honor the Earth, stated, “It’s shocking to see legislation that allows for people to literally be killed for exercising their right to protest in a public space … These [bills] are meant to criminalize the protests with no real concern for constitutional law.”