Minnesota House passes bill cracking down on freeway protests

The bill has been criticized by some Democrats as curtailing free speech.
Author:
Publish date:

A sprawling public safety and security finance bill passed the Minnesota House on Tuesday evening by a vote of 92-35.

The bill contains a wide range of alterations to existing public safety laws and funding for corrections, probation and child protection workers that were included in an omnibus bill for final discussion on Tuesday.

But it was one change to Minnesota's highway law that proved a major bone of contention among lawmakers discussing it.

The change would see penalties increased for “entering, exiting, or on a freeway or entering, exiting, or on a public roadway within the boundaries of airport property with the intent to interfere with, obstruct, or otherwise disrupt traffic."

It would become a gross misdemeanor if it's signed into law, it's currently a misdemeanor.

Related:

– Protesters march through St. Paul, take to highway.

Sign up for our daily newsletters

There was also criticism that the public safety bill did not contain any kind of meaningful gun reforms, despite several proposals being made to the Republican-led house in the wake of the Florida school shooting.

GOPers say it's not about stopping free speech

Opponents, with Minneapolis and St. Paul DFLers among the most vocal about it, say it's an unnecessary move and one that arguably seeks to curtail freedom of speech.

There have been several occasions in which freeways in Minneapolis and St. Paul have been shut down in recent years by demonstrators in the wake of fatal police shootings of black individuals.

Among those opposing the change was Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-Minneapolis), who said there have been no official calls from county attorneys or police to increase these penalties, and accused Republicans of continuing "their attempt to silence voices and to criminalize the very type of non-violent protest that African Americans used to bring about the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s."

Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul) offered an amendment to remove the language but was outvoted.

"We’ve heard no complaints from law enforcement, no complaints from the cities involved that somehow the tools that they already have are insufficient,” he said This is being pushed as part of this systematic agenda to punish those who are attempting to raise the inequities that they see.”

But Republicans like Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) said it was not about curtailing free speech, but about keeping open "critical, important transportation corridors that affect commerce and save lives."

"If you’re standing out on a freeway or closing an airport, I don’t care if you’re pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, if you’re fighting for indigenous rights or racial justice, I don’t give a rip," he said, according to Session Daily.

Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River) agreed, saying: "That the language in this bill would do is say that that activity where you block a freeway, when you block access to an airport, when you march in front of a light-rail train and put your arms in PVC pipe and handcuff each other together and then put bike locks around each other’s neck to the fence. That activity is so dangerous that it deserves to have an extra criminal penalty."

Next Up

Jaden McDaniels

Wolves lose to Magic on Cole Anthony's buzzer-beater

The Wolves blew a 20-point lead as the Magic defeated the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

J.A. Happ

Twins sign veteran J.A. Happ to add to the rotation

The left-hander will get a one-year, $8 million deal from the Twins.

storm the capitol rally st. paul minnesota state capitol

BCA finds 'no criminal wrongdoing' among those at 'Storm the Capitol' rally

Inflammatory comments were made by speakers, but no charges will be brought.

Screen Shot 2021-01-18 at 12.27.04 PM

Man's vehicles crushed by hit-and-run driver weren't fully insured

The goal is to raise $25,000 to help the south Minneapolis resident.

Joe Biden

Key points from Joe Biden's first speech as POTUS

The 46th president called for unity at a time America is facing huge challenges.

coronavirus, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Wednesday, January 20

The 111 ICU patients is the fewest in Minnesota since there were 109 COVID patients in intensive care on Oct. 1.

Klobuchar

Here's what Amy Klobuchar said at Joe Biden's inauguration

The Minnesota senator was one of the leader organizers of the inauguration.

covid-19, vaccine

All of this week's COVID vaccine pilot program appointments are filled

Nearly 6,000 Minnesotans who are 65 and older registered for appointments between noon Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

Lane kueng thao chauvin

Osterholm affidavit ahead of George Floyd trial warns of COVID worsening in March

Prosecutors want to delay the Chauvin trial due to a public health threat.

Related

Freeway protesters would face harsher penalties under this new bill

The bill's author says interstate protests are a threat to public safety.

Dayton vetoes bill that targeted tougher penalties on protesters

Opponents of the bill argued that it violates freedom of speech.

What's in the tax reform bill just passed by the House?

Also, find out how your Minnesota representative voted on it.

Minnesota House passes gun background check, 'red flag' bills

The bills face a tougher time getting through the Senate.

Bill would crack down on left lane slowpokes in Minnesota

The lawmaker behind it suggests it would improve traffic flow.

Minnesota House passes bill to ban indoor vaping

The bill, which would greatly expand the indoor smoking ban, now heads to the Senate.

No town halls, so protesters demonstrate at MN congressman's house

Rep. Jason Lewis says he's 'appalled' by the protest.