Oklahoma activist launches referendum on anti-protest bill

Posted at 5:08 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-26 18:08:47-04

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma leader of the Young Democrats of America said Monday he's launching a veto referendum on a bill signed by Oklahoma's governor that seeks to crack down on protesters by increasing penalties for blocking roadways and granting immunity to motorists who kill or injure rioters.

Joshua Harris-Till, a Democratic activist and president of the Young Democrats of America, said he filed paperwork to start the referendum process. If he gathers about 60,000 signatures in 90 days, the question would be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.

"We already have a list of 500 people who have signed up to be part of the effort," Harris-Till said. "It's going to be a community-led coalition."

The bill would make it misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine for anyone who blocks the use of a public street. The measure would also grant a motorist criminal and civil immunity if they kill or injure someone while fleeing from a riot.

Blocking roadways is a longtime tactic of nonviolent protesters dating back to even before the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Stitt defended the bill on Monday, saying it was prompted mostly by an incident in Tulsa last summer in which a pickup truck drove through a crowd gathered on a Tulsa interstate while protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Several people were injured, including one who was paralyzed from the waist down after falling from an overpass, but the driver, whose family was in the car, was not charged.

The measure is one of a series of GOP-backed proposals that would increase criminal penalties for activities associated with protests last summer over racial injustice and police brutality.

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