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.

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