Lawmakers Delay Vote On Bill To Clear Protesters From Roads

Jan 18, 2017

The Senate Local Government Committee will wait to vote on a bill that would require law enforcement to clear protesters from roadways by “any means necessary.”

The proposal raised alarm with lawmakers and members of the public Wednesday at its first hearing.

The bill, from state Sen. James Tomes (R-Wadesville), would require a mayor or other public official to dispatch all available law enforcement within 15 minutes of a report of a mass traffic obstruction.

Tomes’ bill defines that, in this case, as 10 or more members of a “protest, riot or other assembly” who are unlawfully blocking vehicular traffic. Police would be required to “use any means necessary” to move them out of the road.

Tomes says he’s worried protests, like ones members of the Black Lives Matter movement held on California freeways last summer, can obstruct ambulances and inconvenience drivers. He says protesters need permits so cities can plan detours.

“I always hear the cry, ‘I have my rights,’ but I don’t recall ever hearing on a newscast someone screaming, ‘I have my obligation,’” Tomes says. “And with rights comes obligation.”

But others on the local government committee and in the audience said police already could arrest protesters who broke the law. Some worried the bill, as written, would infringe on rights and force police to go too far with intervention.

Some in the hearing’s audience wore Black Lives Matter shirts, but didn’t testify.

Committee chairman Sen. Jim Buck (R-Kokomo) says the bill needs amending before it’s sent to the full Senate.