By: Tadi Abedje
Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma passed a bill earlier this year that is designed to crackdown on protestors. According to H.B. 1674, “If any murder, maiming, robbery, rape or arson was committed in the course of such riot, such person is punishable in the same manner as a principal in such crime.”
The bill was introduced by Representative Kevin West and was signed into law by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and it will be effective on Nov. 1.
“House Bill 1674 protects law abiding citizens who find themselves caught in the midst of dangerous and illegal actions at no fault of their own,” West said in an email to the Associated Press. “This law maintains the constitutional right to peaceably assemble while also reinforcing our citizen’s rights to be secure in their life, liberty and property.”
There are people in support of the bill because a pickup truck drove through a crowd of protestors in Tulsa last year, during a peaceful rally after George Floyd’s murder. Ironically, it happened on the 99-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921.
It has gotten a considerable amount of pushback from Oklahoma activists and civil rights groups who say it is against the First Amendment. According to the AP, the Oklahoma chapter of the NAACP, the national NAACP and the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center, have filed a lawsuit against the bill in Oklahoma City.
“Law enforcement can criminalize virtually any activity that they deem to be inappropriate or volitive of this statute,” said attorney Melvin Hall in the NAACP lawsuit.