Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged to sign a bill that would raise the penalties for protesters who purposely obstruct emergency vehicles from passing through a roadway or a hospital entrance.
The Texas Senate voted 25-5 to pass House Bill 9, which would make it a state jail felony to knowingly obstructing a highway or other passageway and preventing an emergency vehicle that is flashing lights and sirens from passing, as well as obstructing the entrance to a health care facility that provides emergency medical care. The Texas House had already passed the bill by a vote of 90-55.
On Saturday, Abbott made it be known that he would be signing HB 9 into law when it arrives at his desk.
“Legislation cracking down on protestors for blocking roads PASSES in the Senate,” the Republican governor of Texas announced on Twitter. “Peaceful protest doesn’t include blocking roadways & preventing emergency vehicle access. That chaos won’t be tolerated in Texas. Thanks to @StephanieKlick & @DonnaCampbellTX. I will sign soon.”
“In an emergency, seconds matter,” state Rep. Stephanie Klick said when first presenting HB 9. “We all have a constitutional right to peaceably assemble under the First Amendment, but what we don’t have is a right to prevent authorized emergency vehicles that can provide life saving care.”
The bill is a response to last summer’s social justice and police brutality protests that at times manifested into full-scale riots.
The “Combating Public Disorder” law criminalizes “mob intimidation” tactics, such as rioters accosting people at restaurants, plus it would increase penalties for rioting, looting, and violence stemming from protests. The law also provides legal protections to motorists fleeing for their safety from angry mobs.
“We saw unprecedented rioting throughout 2020,” DeSantis said. “We wanted to make sure we protect the people of our great state, businesses and property against any type of mob activity. We’re here today being prepared to sign that bill into law.”