As the organizes of the fatal 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville are standing trial in a civil lawsuit, Republicans across the country are organizing to pass "hit and kill" bills that allow motorists to run down protesters.
On Monday, the Boston Globe reported on a "Back the Blue Act" signed by Iowa's Republican governor, Kim Reynolds. The bill took the side of drivers who run over protesters. In June of 2020, the driver of Reynold's state-issued Chevrolet Suburban struck a Des Moines Black Liberation Movement protester who was urging the governor to restore voting rights.
"Iowa is one of three states, along with Oklahoma and Florida, to enact laws this year giving drivers some degree of legal immunity if they use their vehicles to hurt protesters, part of a wave of 'hit and kill' bills introduced in 13 other states by Republican legislators since 2017. Most of those proposals came after one of the most sustained periods of demonstrations in US history following Floyd's murder, and the effort to crack down on protesters has sent a chilling message to activists, who believe it will encourage violence against them," the newspaper reported.
There is currently pending legislation in Tennessee, New Jersey and Washington.
"Republicans' rationale for backing the bills — that it is people behind the wheel of a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds, not pedestrians, who are scared and at risk during protests that have been overwhelmingly peaceful — also reveals the extreme lens with which many conservatives see Black Lives Matter and other protesters, and the legitimacy of their dissent," the newspaper reported. "The new laws and proposals came after a sharp rise in people driving their vehicles into protests. A Globe analysis found 139 instances of what researchers call vehicle rammings between Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, that caused 100 injuries and killed at least three people."
Nick Robinson, a senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, warned it the new laws were "just a recipe for disaster."
"There's this kind of vigilantism that's returning," Robinson said. "If we deem these protesters to be rioters, we're going to take the law into our own hands. And if that means injuring them with our vehicle or killing them with our vehicle, we have an expectation that the state will protect us."
Read the full report.