GOVERNMENT

Lawmakers propose new bill against protestors who block traffic

Nov 17, 2020, 7:03 PM | Updated: 11:15 pm
session guidelines utah legislature...
(Utah State Capitol Complex. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)
(Utah State Capitol Complex. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A controversial bill to increase penalties against protestors who block traffic received approval to move forward. However, the bill is getting a lot of pushback. 

The bill, not numbered yet, will do two things according to Representative Jon Hawkins. 

It would first increase the penalties for people who intentionally block traffic during a protest.  After receiving feedback from Law Enforcement and the Criminal Justice Interim Committee, Hawkins decided the penalty for this act is a misdemeanor. 

Hawkins said he was inspired to draft the bill after seeing protests turn violent in cities like Portland and Seattle.  He cited the story of a teenage girl who tried to take her father to the hospital, but protesters were blocking her from getting there.

Hawkins said, “I know if I had a loved one in need of an emergency responder and somebody is blocking those vehicles from helping, there ought to be a felony.”

Weber County Sheriff Ryan Arbon witnessed protests in Portland, Oregon, and he said people clogging the roads had more destructive intentions than just stopping vehicles. 

Arbon cited protestors weaponized their presence on the roads, and things quickly turned violent if drivers tried to escape.

“These are people with signs and they would deliberately surround cars, forced [people] out, beat them and all kinds of things if they did not acknowledge or participate in the protest,” Arbon said.

The second thing the bill would do is “eliminate criminal responsibility” if a driver hits a protestor with their car while trying to flee the scene if they’re in danger. 

This language caused a lot of hesitation among other lawmakers. Senator Daniel Thatcher was in favor of giving people an extra layer of protection if they’re being threatened. 

However, Thatcher does not want the law to protect anyone who intentionally drives into a crowd, unprovoked.

Opponents of the bill believe the bill goes too far to criminalize something that has been used by protestors for many years.

Will Carlson, with the Salt Lake County DA’s Office, reported “interrupting traffic as a part of a protest is part of America’s tradition of protests.  Marching in the streets, even in Selma, Alabama, used blocking traffic as a part of the protest.”

Other lawmakers worry the law wouldn’t be evenly applied since some people may interpret “riot” in different ways. 

“One of the problems we see with the definition of ‘riot’ is the vague language,” one anonymous woman says.

The bill didn’t get unanimous support from the interim committee, but it was approved for further discussion. 

Lawmakers expect the proposed bill against rioters who block traffic to be tweaked a few more times before it is voted upon.

Today’s Top Stories

Government

Draper City is suing, Geneva Rock, a mining company at the Point of the Mountain. The city is conce...
Jessica Lowell & Allie Litzinger

Draper City suing Geneva Rock, the mining company at Point of the Mountain

Draper City is suing, Geneva Rock, a mining company at the Point of the Mountain over concerns about what the company's mining activity will do to the area.
1 day ago
fairness pregnant...
Lindsay Aerts

Utah moms rally behind Fairness for Pregnant Workers Act

Utahns in the nationwide advocacy group Mom Congress are pushing for a fairness bill to give pregnant workers more federal protections.
1 day ago
Utah Republicans are looking to ban transgender surgeries and other hormone-based care....
Mark Jones

Utah to receive additional $4.9 million from FEMA in response to COVID-19

FEMA has announced Utah will receive an additional $4.9 million to help with the housing costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
4 days ago
...
Curt Gresseth

Former U.S. Attorney for Utah talks about what FBI can take off your cellphone

A legal expert joined Dave and Dujanovic to discuss how the FBI can obtain evidence of a crime from a cellphone.
4 days ago
mini-bottles Utah liquor store...
Elizabeth Weiler

“Mini-bottles” could return to Utah state liquor stores

Mini-bottles haven't been on Utah state liquor store shelves for more than two decades. A public hearing will be held on the proposal.
4 days ago
The Biden administration is preparing for the possibility of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, left, and Flor...
MJ Lee, CNN White House correspondent

Biden administration prepares for Abbott and DeSantis to send more migrants to Democratic cities

The Biden administration is readying for more migrants to be sent to Democratic cities.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Lawmakers propose new bill against protestors who block traffic