Recently signed bills could be met with legal challenge

Mike Seals - April 23, 2021 1:30 am

Several bills signed by Governor Stitt this week could be challenged in court.

The ACLU of Oklahoma believes some of them threaten First Amendment rights to protest.

Protestors brought voting in the state house to a halt Wednesday to speak out against some of the legislation.

The group was confronted by some lawmakers.

“I think it was a critical moment where they could have made the decision to pause and listen, to respect that people were using the right to protest,” said Nicole McAfee from the ACLU of Oklahoma. “They acted respectfully and left the gallery as they were asked to and instead, they shut them down the same way this legislation does.”

On the same day, the Governor signed some of the bills the group was protesting.

One of the bills ups the penalty for blocking a road, and provides immunity for people if they hit or kill someone while trying to flee from a riot.

“Here in Oklahoma, we will not tolerate rioters who threaten law-abiding citizens’ safety and we support law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day,” Governor Stitt said in a written statement. “As governor, I remain committed to protecting law enforcement officers’ right to do their job and every Oklahoman’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest, as well as their right to feel safe in their community.”

“It doesn’t account for the fact that they’ve now emboldened drivers who may not think twice about ‘is this a protest’ or ‘is this a riot’ as they are driving through people,” McAfee said.

In Oklahoma, a riot is defined as “any use of force or violence, or any threat to use force or violence if accompanied by the immediate power of execution, by three or more persons acting together and without the authority of law, is a riot.”

The example lawmakers used was when a truck drove through a group of protesters in Tulsa last year.

The ACLU says there are several bills like it and that there’s absolutely a possibility they will challenge them in court.

It’s waiting to see how many are passed.

From KFOR:

Protesters interrupt Oklahoma House proceedings over a number of this session’s bills

by: Cassandra Sweetman

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group of protesters were kicked out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives after they disrupted proceedings to object to a slew of bills they called egregious and oppressive to Oklahomans.

“There’s just so much going on in this session that’s wrong and it’s inherently hurtful to the people of Oklahoma and we’re not going to stand for it,” said Adriana Laws, the president and founder of the Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition.

“You cannot just run somebody over and it be okay because your justification is you felt you were threatened,” Laws said. “I feel threatened everyday as a black woman in society.”

Photo goes with story
Protesters inside the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Gov. Kevin Stitt responded with a statement that said, “We are sending a message today in Oklahoma that rioters who threaten law abiding citizens’ safety will not be tolerated. I remain unequivocally committed to protecting every Oklahoman’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest as well as their right to feel safe in their community.”

But Laws said they were speaking out against other legislation as well, including a bill that would ban transgender athletes from school-age sports teams, and anti-abortion bills, six of which are

Laws said she and others have tried to communicate their opinions about these bills, but legislators would not engage in conversations, so a disruption like Wednesday’s was their last resort.

“It is our civic duty and our constitutional right to be able to stand up against our oppressor and be able to advocate in our legislature,” Laws said.

KFOR tried to reach out to House leaders on both sides of the aisle for this story. So far, we have not heard back.

 

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