Rioters chanting “Black Lives Matter” stormed the Oklahoma Capitol on Wednesday, forcing the state House of Representatives into lockdown, in order to protest several Republican-backed bills, including one that provides legal protections to motorists fleeing riots.
More than two dozen protesters filled the gallery on the fifth floor while the Oklahoma House in the chamber below was in session.
Video showed demonstrators chanting, “Stand united against all hate,” and “We will use our voices to stand against corruption, to fight hate, to defend Black and Brown lives.” The disturbance interrupted the session for several minutes.
The demonstration was organized against what activists describe as anti-protest and anti-transgender bills advancing through the GOP-controlled state Senate and House.
One bill increases penalties for protesters blocking traffic and protects drivers who unintentionally strike drivers with their cars. Another aims to protect law enforcement and their families from “doxxing.”
One man stood nose-to-nose with a lawmaker who met him on the gallery in what appeared to be a heated verbal confrontation until another female protester pulled him away.
“You’re a disgrace, you’re an embarrassment to the whole f—ing nation,” the male protesters shouted as he left.
“You are traitors, insurrectionists, seditionists,” another woman shouted as protesters trickled out of the gallery.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol escorted protesters from the building, and a drug dog was brought into the chamber to make sure “nothing was left behind,” KOCO reporter Dillon Richards tweeted.
This was inside a few moments ago pic.twitter.com/m3EENI1bxW— Dillon Richards (@KOCODillon) April 21, 2021
House Bill 1674, co-authored by Republican state Rep. Kevin West and his GOP colleague state Sen. Rob Standridge, creates a misdemeanour for unlawfully obstructing traffic while participating in a riot.
It also adds criminal and civil liability protections “for motor vehicle operators who unintentionally cause injury or death to an individual participating in a riot under certain circumstances,” the Oklahoma Legislature said.
The bill also “provides that organizations found to be involved with individuals participating in riots or unlawful assemblies shall be punished by a fine that is ten times the amount of the fine authorized by the appropriate provision of the bill,” according to the proposed legislation’s fiscal analysis.
“This is an important protection for citizens who are just trying to get out of a bad situation,” West said, according to The Oklahoman.
“When fleeing an unlawful riot, they should not face threat of prosecution for trying to protect themselves, their families or their property.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, approved the bill Wednesday, the Oklahoma Legislature said.
A second bill the governor signed into law Wednesday makes doxxing law enforcement or other public officials by publishing their personal information online a crime.
House Bill 1643, co-sponsored by Republican state Sen. David Bullard and Republican state Rep. Justin Humphrey, makes it a misdemeanour offense punishable by up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for an individual with the “intent to threaten, intimidate or harass,” to use an “electronic communication device to knowingly publish, post or otherwise make publicly available personally identifiable information of a peace officer or public official” and result “in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.”
The punishment would be doubled upon the second conviction of the same offense, the bill says.
ACLU Oklahoma has argued the bill is too broad and anyone who posts videos or photos of law enforcement would be expected to blur out names on badges, KFOR reported.
Protesters also took exception to a third piece of Republican-backed legislation that would prohibit anyone of the “male sex” from playing on athletic teams designated for “females, women or girls.”
The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the so-called “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which co-authors state Rep. Toni Hasenbeck and state Sen. Micheal Bergstrom — both Republicans — have argued will protect female athletes from missing opportunities to fairly compete for medals, podium sports, athletic scholarships and other public recognition.
Both lawmakers who drafted Senate Bill 2 have stressed the competitive advantage biological men have over biological women, and Bergstrom said he was open to having a conversation about how to allow transgender athletes to participate in sports in other ways, the Stigler News-Sentinel reported.