Chuck Witt: Protesters ‘fair game’ under proposed law

Published 8:18 am Tuesday, November 7, 2017

If a certificate were ever given out for the dumbest piece of legislation, one that was recently proposed for the Kentucky legislature would most likely get the award for 2017.

Part of the proposed bill specifies that motorists may not be held criminally or civilly liable for causing injury OR DEATH to a person who is blocking traffic during a protest or march for which no permit has been granted, unless it is proven that the motorist ran into the protesters deliberately.


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A motorist can run over a protester — à la Charlottesville — potentially proclaim innocence because it was not deliberate and walk away without punishment, just because the protester blocked the street?

Look, protests and issue marches are not always quiet and peaceful, but they are legal as long as those participating obey certain restraints and many protests are nothing more than orderly marches.

Perhaps state legislators who propose such laws should read the Constitution, especially that part about peaceful assembly and the right to redress the government.

It seems extreme that any protester or marcher should have to face the possibility of death by vehicle for participating in such an event.

What if the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as has happened fairly recently (although it wasn’t during a protest march, just a group of people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time)?

What if someone who isn’t even participating in a demonstration happens to get bumped into the street and then hit by a driver? Will the automatic assumption be that the person who is hit was a participant and was thus fair game?

It would seem some of our legislators are more concerned with limiting one’s ability to protest than with upholding the longstanding tradition in this country of taking to the streets when it is felt that either the government or some other entity is trampling on the normal rights of the people.

Another Kentucky legislator remarked: “What we are really saying with bills like this is that it’s OK for us to be at war with one another, to use violence against each other.”


It certainly seems, more and more, some politicians are seeking ways to silence the people, especially when the people are speaking out against those things which they feel are detrimental to their safety and welfare.

Some similar examples of this type of silencing are gerrymandering and passing laws which make it more difficult for individuals to vote.

Each day, people are seeing renewed attempts to restrict their ability to redress grievances, whether it be at the state or national level — at the state level with ludicrous laws like this one or at the national level with decisions like Citizens United.

Perhaps the best hope about this particular bill is that it will die in committee or, if passed by committee and the legislature, be struck down by the court.

It is probable that little attention would have been given to this proposal had it not been revealed by state newspapers.

Of course, that might mean the legislator who dreamed this one up will go after the freedom of the press next.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at