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State to appeal order blocking enactment of law protecting motorists during street riots
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State to appeal order blocking enactment of law protecting motorists during street riots

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Protestors block Interstate 44 in Tulsa in May 2020. The state of Oklahoma filed notice Wednesday that it intends to appeal a lower-court order that blocked enforcement of a new law aimed at shielding from liability motorists who strike street rioters and fining organizations that participate in riots.

The state of Oklahoma filed notice Wednesday that it intends to appeal a lower-court order that blocked enforcement of a new law aimed at shielding from liability motorists who strike street rioters and fining organizations that participate in riots.

The state is appealing an Oct. 27 preliminary injunction order by U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron in Oklahoma City federal court that blocked the enactment of House Bill 1674.

Passed last session by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt, HB 1674 is seen by many as a reaction to 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. The law, which would have taken effect Nov. 1, provides for misdemeanor penalties of up to $5,000 and jail terms of up to one year for people who obstruct traffic on roadways during protests.

It also provides for fines of up to $50,000 for organizations that conspire to block roads. The law also civilly and criminally protects motorists who injure or kill protesters who are blocking roadways if the driver was acting on the reasonable belief that fleeing was necessary for safety reasons and the driver exercises “due care.”

The Oklahoma State Conference of the NAACP sued O’Connor and Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater in their official capacities Aug. 30 to stop enforcement of HB 1674.

The state chapter of the NAACP claims in the lawsuit that HB 1674 “chills Oklahoma NAACP’s efforts to mobilize Black people and their allies to advocate for racial justice.”

“If HB 1674 goes into effect, Oklahoma NAACP will be chilled from organizing or attending protests, demonstrations, and public gatherings and from associating with other organizations for fear that doing so will result in Oklahoma NAACP being deemed a ‘conspirator’ under HB 1674,” the orqanization wrote in its complaint.

On Oct. 27, Cauthron granted the organization’s request for a preliminary injunction, finding that the law, at least at this stage of the proceedings, was unconstitutionally vague.

Cauthron called one provision regarding obstructing street traffic as having a “chilling effect” on protected speech.

The state has claimed that HB 1674 contains enough clarity to “satisfy constitutional muster.”

The state has 14 days to file paperwork in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals initiating the appeal.

Featured video: State Question 816 seeks to overturn Oklahoma law that protects drivers who hit protesters obstructing roads

To put the issue before Oklahoma voters, opponents of HB 1674 must gather signatures of 59,320 registered Oklahoma voters by Aug. 26.

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