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Bill that would punish protestors blocking freeways might have Gov. Dayton's support

A bill that aims to increase the penalty will be voted on soon.

A bill that would charge protestors who demonstrate on freeways or at the airport has the support of Governor Mark Dayton if is presented the right way. 

What's the right way?

“People who are driving at reasonable but proper speeds come around the corner but suddenly traffic is halted, there is a public safety risk and there is a risk to law enforcement,” Dayton explained in an interview with MPR on Wednesday.

Dayton however will not support the bill if it limits "people’s First Amendment rights," he said. 

The bill's primary author, Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River), said in Jan. 2017 that Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington spent $2.5 million responding to protests. His initial goal was to penalize demonstrators who obstruct traffic by forcing them to pay for the cost of their arrests, according to the Pioneer Press

That original bill never made it in 2017, but it was reconstructed late last year and it will be voted on again this year, likely sooner than later. 

“We need to follow the law. If you break the law and block a freeway, you need to go to jail,” Zerwas told WCCO in August.

The updated bill would increase the penalty from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor and a $3,000 fine. It would target anyone who blocks traffic from entering or exiting a freeway or public roadway near an airport. 

Opposition to the bill say it violates the constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful demonstration. 

Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville) recently said “it’s OK to place restrictions on rights if it’s in the name of public safety.”

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