North Dakota House Passes Bill Prohibiting Pipeline Protesters From Wearing Masks

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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North Dakota lawmakers endorsed four measures aimed at protesters who use masks to conceal their faces while protesting the contentious Dakota Access pipeline.

The state’s Republican-led House approved a series of measures Monday directed at anti-DAPL activists who wear masks while protesting. It also approved bills increasing penalties for rioting, trespassing, and causing damage to personal property.

The measures, which are intended to curtail some of the more dangerous elements at the pipeline protests, now move to the Republican-led Senate.

Republicans have proposed similar measures in the past.

North Dakota state Rep. Keith Kempenich, for instance, pushed a bill in January protecting drivers who accidentally plow over protesters on the highway. He believes something needs to be done about protesters blocking roadways.

“It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” he told reporters at the time. “[Roads] not there for the protesters. They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger.”

Kempenich’s legislation protects drivers who hit protesters on the roadways from being “liable for any damages,” especially those who are startled and confused by protesters, and press the accelerator instead of the brakes.

Law enforcement officials have arrested more than 550 people so far since the summer after violent confrontations with Standing Rock members and various out-of-state activists. The pipeline’s opponents think the DAPL, which is slated to run underneath the tribe’s water supply, could potentially poison Standing Rock’s water supply.

Agitators set nine vehicles ablaze during October protests, and destroyed construction equipment, leaving debris and burned-out vehicles strewn across a bridge, which resulted in the closure of one of the state’s main highways.

Activists associated with the months-long movement to stymie the now-rejected multi-billion dollar project believe the bill “criminalizes the protests” and puts people’s lives in danger.

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