Republican lawmakers in six states have pushed this year for legal protections for motorists who hit protesters blocking traffic. Fairly or not, they’re facing an intense backlash now that violent images of a car ramming into a crowd protesting a white supremacist rally have been seen around the world.

The lawmakers say their goal has never been to incite violence, but to shield drivers from lawsuits for accidents they blame on illegal street protests. Bills in Texas and North Carolina to protect drivers from civil liability if they unintentionally injure or kill protesters remain pending, but their chances of passage appear dim after Saturday’s attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, which killed a woman and injured at least 19 people. The four other bills were voted down or failed without advancing.

The bills are part of a backlash to large, disruptive protests over the last year against police shootings of black men, the Dakota Access pipeline and policies of the White House. Some shut down major freeways. Lawmakers responded with new laws across the country, passing a $200 fine in Tennessee for blocking emergency vehicles, a South Dakota measure that criminalizes highway protests and tougher trespassing laws in North Dakota and Oklahoma.

The driver immunity proposals have been particularly contentious. Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, labeled them “hit and kill” bills.

Bill sponsors have been inundated with criticism on social media following the arrest of James A. Fields Jr. for allegedly ramming his Dodge Challenger through a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville.

The attack killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured others who had gathered in the streets to oppose white nationalists, who were protesting the removal of a confederate monument. Scores of critics have bluntly told the lawmakers on social media that they are complicit in Heyer’s death.

Bill supporters note that the wording of their bills would not protect drivers who deliberately target protesters, and any intentional attackers would still face criminal and civil liability.

“It is intellectually dishonest and a gross mischaracterization to portray North Carolina House Bill 330 as a protection measure for the act of violence that occurred in Charlottesville this past weekend,” that bill’s sponsors, Reps. Justin Burr and Chris Millis, said in a joint statement.

Burr explained the intent in April as the House voted 67-48 to pass the bill: “You shouldn’t run out in front of cars on the interstate or the highway and attempt to illegally protest. If you do, it should be at your risk, not at the risk of the liability of those individuals driving down the road.”

A North Carolina state senator said Monday there are no plans to advance the measure in that chamber.

In Florida, Sen. George Gainer said the intent of his now-failed bill was to protect only those motorists who unintentionally strike protesters blocking traffic. He denounced “the reprehensible actions of the evil person in Virginia.”

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