North Dakota bill would let motorists ‘unintentionally cause injury or death’ to protestors

“It’s shocking to see legislation that allows for people to literally be killed for exercising their right to protest in a public space.”


A North Dakota lawmaker seems to have it out for the water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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.”


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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.