North Dakota May Make It Legal to Run Over Protestors

Motorist aggression toward peaceful demonstrators
When a driver ran into a crowd of protestors in Minneapolis, injuring a 16-year-old girl, he was charged only with minor traffic offenses. Photo: KTSP

North Dakota state rep Keith Kempenich has had enough of people exercising their right to assembly and free expression.

North Dakota State Rep. Keith Kempenich. Photo: ND.com
North Dakota state rep Keith Kempenich. Photo: ND.com

In response to the protests at Standing Rock, Kempenich has introduced legislation [PDF] to shield drivers from penalty who unintentionally strike a pedestrian “obstructing vehicular traffic.”

The bill asserts that pedestrians are not allowed to use the roadbed unless there are no sidewalks, and even in that case, they have to stick to the shoulder. It appears to make no accommodation for people who actually have to cross a street.

The bill has been making the rounds, compelling Kempenich to defend himself. He says it wouldn’t apply to a driver who deliberately mows someone down, nor would it protect distracted drivers.

“If you stay off the roadway, this would never be an issue,” Kempenich told the Star Tribune.

But it’s hard to explain Kempenich’s bill except as an attempt to encourage aggression toward protestors and bully people out of the street. After all, drivers already get away with the type of behavior Kempenich wants to shield from accountability.

A man who intentionally ran into a crowd during Ferguson protests in Minneapolis, running over the leg of a 16-year-old girl and then fleeing the scene, was charged only with minor traffic offenses.

  • This is barbarism.

  • PP

    Sad!

  • Brandon

    The law is about drivers who: ‘unintentionally strike a pedestrian “obstructing vehicular traffic.”’ This is not giving drivers the right to kill anyone.

  • AlTate

    Yes, and I have to say I feel for any driver who finds himself in this situation. Imagine being blocked in by an angry and potentially violent mob, fearing for your life. Would you not consider at some point that your right to live exceeds the right of someone who has deliberately and illegally gone out of their way to intimidate, harass and delay you?

    Every driver should seek to avoid hitting a pedestrian who enters into the highway, even if that pedestrian is 100% at fault. But it’s OK if basic civil rights are taken away from those who mendaciously and deliberately seek to restrict the rights and freedoms of others, including their right to free movement.

  • Frank Kotter

    Just so make your point clear: you feel intentionally running someone over standing in front of your car is a legitimate option to protect your ‘freedoms’?

  • Dexter Wong

    The article suggests that the bill is so vague as to include people who are crossing a highway at an intersection. So does the legislator think people’s privilege to drive overrides other people’s use of the First Amendment?

  • AlTate

    No, but I do understand self-preservation instincts taking over if you are surrounded by a mob and feel that you are in danger. In fact the law already allows you to use force in self-defense.

    I presume this law extends that right to situations where a mob have deliberately and illegally caused a hazard by entering a highway.

  • Frank Kotter

    You reply with ‘no’ but then go on to explain that that is indeed exactly what you are saying. I don’t know, maybe I just expect too much from my fellow human beings.

  • Brandon

    Again, the law doesn’t seem to give drivers the right to intentionally hit anyone.

  • AlTate

    Depends what you mean by “intentionally”. To save yourself when you fear for your life, absolutely

  • AlTate

    You lose a heck of a lot of your rights when you restrict my right to free movement and get into my face with an agenda that I have expressed no interest in

  • Todd

    Your first amendment rights do not extend to the right to impede the free movement of others, which is also a first amendment right.

    You can speak freely without impeding my movement. So why would you not? And why would expect immunity if you do?

  • Frank Kotter

    And then you run me over and kill me. Sounds about right…

  • Alexis John

    However limited people’s speech rights are in relation to peoples rights to move freely, I can assure you that there is no way that any violation of the right to move freely is not a warrant to mow people down with impunity. To suggest otherwise is frightening.

  • Alexis John

    You have no clue how rights and the judicial system work. No one is granted additional rights because someone else violates theirs. Preventing self help (i.e. taking the law into your own hands) is the essence of the legal system.

  • Alexis John

    This person is a nut or a troll. Don’t waste your time.

  • Todd

    I’d phrase it differently. If you break the law AND take a big risk with your safety, and then in fact you are harmed, you will always get a lot less sympathy from any court and jury

  • AlTate

    Here’s the thing. If you want free speech you can go to Central Park and shout

    What you can’t do is mess with me

  • AlTate

    Well, I have a right to use deadly force to defend myself

    Why don’t you exercize free speech some place else?

  • Justin

    lmao driving is a privilege not a right jackass.

  • Todd

    I never said anything about driving. Blocking pedestrians, cyclists or transit riders would be just as bad.

  • Kevin Weinberg

    People who block the road on PURPOSE are not “dying” they are COMMITTING SUICIDE. Get the FUCK out of the road!

  • Todd

    That doesn’t mean you have the right to prevent me from doing it

  • Bob Miner

    These criminals acting in the name of “GOVERNMENT” prove more and more just how illegitimate they are. They’ve lost all respect and how many people now look at them as the criminals they really are. Now some low IQ man wants to make it legal to murder people with an automobile. This ‘NATION” was formed by people that protested, that is why they are called Patriots. Pat meaning Petty, and riot meaning riot, so this man is anti -Patriot. Did the war with the Tory Red Coats really end?

  • Prithvi Boinpally

    self defense is not an “additional right”.

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