Proposed bill would provide civil immunity for driver if protestor is hit

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities lawmaker is sponsoring new legislation he says will protect drivers and protestors.

Representative Matthew Hill, of Jonesborough, says his proposed bill would prevent a driver obeying all traffic measures from facing civil charges, if that driver were to hit a protestor.

Representative Hill said he thinks this bill would protect everyone and says this is a way to encourage protestors to stay out of the roadway.

But not everyone, such as Ben Schaller, is happy with the proposed legislation.

Schaller said he has taken part in his fair share of legislation.

“I do express my freedom of speech yes. I think in this current climate, now more so than ever I think it’s very important to do such things,” Schaller said.

When he heard about Representative Hill’s proposed legislation he was concerned.

“That to me is scary, the fact that something like that can protect somebody,” he said.

HILL: The legislation is, if someone’s in a car and they take due care, that’s the legal term. Meaning not doing it on purpose. No malicious intent, nothing like that and they accidentally hit someone the protestor that they hit can not come back on them and sue them in civil court. Civil court is the key.

Hill says the point of the bill is for public safety.

“There’s been reports of protestors blocking ambulances, and it’s just dangerous. It’s dangerous for the protestor, it’s dangerous for people in the vehicles,” Hill said.

“The fact that this is a law, even being discussed it’s interesting to me because it really hasn’t been an issue before,” Schaller said.

Hill says he supports peaceful protesting and the proposal is meant to protect everyone.

“The people who are protesting, the people who are in their vehicles and it is meant to legally encourage people get out of the road,” Hill said.

But Schaller doesn’t see it that way.

“Already knowing that there’s people who are willing to run protestors over and then a law that would protect them, that’s frightening,” he said.

But Representative Hill maintains his legislation doesn’t allow that.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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