Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott is ready to sign a bill that would punish more severely protesters who “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly blocking an emergency vehicle operating its emergency lights or siren or a hospital entrance,” raising the penalty from a Class B misdemeanor to a state jail felony.
Abbott wrote, “Legislation cracking down on protestors for blocking roads PASSES in the Senate. 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.”
H.B. 9 would make intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly blocking an emergency vehicle operating its emergency lights or siren or a hospital entrance a state jail felony. Additionally, this bill will require as a condition of community supervision that a person serve no fewer than 10 days in jail. With steeper penalties, H.B. 9 seeks to protect access to emergency services used by officers and the public.
H.B. 9 amends current law relating to the criminal punishment and conditions of community supervision for the offense of obstructing a highway or other passageway and increases a criminal penalty.
When she presented the bill, state Rep. Stephanie Klick stated, “In an emergency, seconds matter. 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.”
Last September, two Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies were shot in Compton and were transported to local hospital, where they were fighting for their lives. The Los Angeles County Sheriffs wrote on Twitter, “To the protesters blocking the entrance and exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling, ‘We hope they die,’ referring to 2 LA sheriffs’ (deputies) ambushed today in #Compton, DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL. People’s lives are at stake when ambulances can’t get through.”
In December 2014, a 62-year-old man died in Berkeley, California, after waiting for Berkeley paramedics to arrive while protests choked the streets of the city. Berkeleyside reported:
Several people aware of the case said the man who was assisted by paramedics later died at the hospital. Though there is no way to know with certainty whether the man might have survived had paramedics reached him sooner — given the amount of information currently available — people familiar with the case said the demonstration posed a definite obstacle during the call.
“Nobody could get to him,” a city staffer said, of the man on Kittredge Street, who is believed to have had a heart attack. “Fire couldn’t get in without protection, and everyone was tied up. [Paramedics] were able to revive him to get him to the hospital, but it took 35 minutes to get [to Kittredge] because protesters were in the area and no one could go in safely.”
The Texas Senate voted 25-5 to pass H.B. 9; the Texas House had already passed the bill, 90-55.