Bigger penalty for freeway protesters is closer to reality

Protest on a freeway or airport road, and it could be a more serious crime.

More serious penalties for protesting have moved a step closer to being implemented.

Lawmakers in the House voted to keep language in a big public safety bill that makes blocking freeways or airport roads a more serious crime.

The language (starting at line 68.16 here) makes it a gross misdemeanor for anyone to interfere with or obstruct traffic on a freeway or airport property road – that’s a penalty of up to a year in jail and $3,000 in fines. Right now it's simply a misdemeanor, which is a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine.

These new regulations would kick in Aug. 1 of 2017.

The proposal, which has taken a few forms during this legislative session, has generally been forwarded by Republicans like Rep. Nick Zerwas. Zerwas, who is from Elk River, argued the current penalties clearly don't deter the behavior. He also said it could put people's lives at risk if emergency vehicles are stopped from using the freeway during a protest.

Democrats in the House moved to strip that part out of the public safety bill Monday, but were voted down 75-56 after three hours of debate, Rep. John Lesch tweeted.

"Free speech got a bloody nose today, courtesy of @mnhousegop," Lesch, a Democrat added.

Democrats have argued the bill limits people’s First Amendment rights, and disproportionately affect people of color. Activists have also said blocking highways draws more attention to their cause because it inconveniences people – if they protested somewhere else, people might not notice, Market Watch reported.

The proposals come after the recent police shootings of Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, and other black men, which led to demonstrations on the highway, at the airport and in streets.

As mentioned above, the new law is part of a broader public safety and security bill. That bill cleared the House on a 94-37 vote.

The Senate has passed its own version of a public safety bill. For it to become law, the House and Senate versions will have match, meaning the chambers will have to work out a compromise. Then Gov. Mark Dayton will have to sign it.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-02-27 at 9.39.00 AM

Teen wounded in 'accidental shooting' in Moorhead

The 18-year-old was shot in the abdomen.

Kirill Kaprizov / Minnesota Wild

Watch: Another absurd night for Kaprizov as his legend grows

Kaprizov scored a crazy wrap-around goal in the Wild's victory over the Kings.


DoorDash, Uber Eats bump service fees for Twin Cities customers

After Minneapolis and St. Paul limited what companies can charge restaurants, DoorDash and Uber are charging customers about a dollar more

hockey rink ice arena

Hill-Murray girls' hockey shut down after 3 players with COVID symptoms kept playing

The players showed 'complete disregard' for the school's COVID

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 6.18.55 AM

Narrow band of intense snow to bring up to 7 inches to Minnesota

A winter storm watch has been issued where more than 6 inches could pile up.

Icicles; frozen; winter

As Minnesotans brace for huge gas bills, state ups assistance to $1200

Texas wasn't the only state impacted by February's arctic blast.

Kirill Kaprizov / Minnesota Wild

3 first-period goals lead Wild over Kings

With three goals in just over three minutes, the Wild sealed their fifth straight victory.

butcher and the boar

Butcher & the Boar makes comeback with new ownership

Local hospitality company Jester Concepts has bought the brand. The new location is still being determined.


Freeway protesters would face harsher penalties under this new bill

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

Protesters march through St. Paul, take to the highway

A rally at the State Capitol is underway.

Could protesters end up on the hook for public safety costs?

A protest erupted when the bill was voted through committee.

What you should know about the 2 abortion bills approved by the MN House

What the bills do, arguments for and against them, and what needs to happen for them to become law.

House passes bill cracking down on freeway protests

The bill has been criticized by some Democrats as curtailing free speech.

Rep. Hortman responds to criticism, says she's done with 'the bulls---'

Rep. Melissa Hortman has been criticized for saying white male lawmakers weren't listening to their colleagues.

Dayton vetoes bill that targeted tougher penalties on protesters

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