Freeway protesters would face harsher penalties under this new bill

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

There's a bill in the Minnesota House that would increase the penalty for protesting on a freeway.

Rep. Kathy Lohmer, a Republican from Stillwater, authored the bill in response to those protests that have blocked interstates and entrance ramps, telling WCCO they are a threat to public safety.

Her bill would increase the penalty for intentionally obstructing a highway – it'd go from a misdemeanor (a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine) to a gross misdemeanor. That's a penalty of up to a year in jail and $3,000 in fines. The bill would also change the public nuisance statute to a gross misdemeanor.

Jordan Kushner, a civil rights attorney, told WCCO the bill is "very disturbing" and is an effort to intimidate protesters.

Activists have argued that blocking highways draws more attention to their cause because it inconveniences people – if they protested somewhere else, people might not notice, Market Watch reported.

Protesting on highways has become more common in the Twin Cities in the wake of the recent police shootings of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile.

The most recent freeway-blocking protest in Minnesota was back in July, when hundreds of people walked on Interstate 94 days after Castile was killed. Dozens of people were arrested and charged with trespassing, a misdemeanor. They were also charged with riot, a gross misdemeanor, but those charges against many of them were dropped this week.

Lohmer's bill was read for the first time earlier this month and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Regional Governance Policy. It doesn't have a companion in the state Senate right now.

And for context: For a bill to actually become a law, the House and Senate have to pass identical bills; then the governor has to sign it.

Next Up


Fire at Mpls. pizza joint weeks after opening, owners suspect arson

The owners arrived at work Tuesday to find the building on fire.

vaccine, covid

New COVID charts show hospitalization, death rates based on vaccine status

The unvaccinated are far more likely than the fully vaccinated to become hospitalized or die.

Flickr - Superior National Forest Boundary Waters

White House begins process to ban new mining near BWCAW

The stated goal is to protect the "unique natural wonder" of the BWCAW.

Autumn Merrick, Autumn Rose Merrick

Man charged in shootout, crash that killed 18-year-old on scooter

Autumn Rose Merrick was with a friend near the Holiday gas station.

D Quagon - DOC photo

DOC searching for convicted sex offender who has gone on the run

The recently released man removed his GPS monitoring device.

Anthony Edwards

Timberwolves: 5 things you can count on for the 2021-22 season

The Timberwolves hope to return to relevance this season.


With parking ramp roof empty most of time, Chaska adds pickleball courts

The top level isn't often used, so the entities teamed up to meet a growing need for pickleball courts.

Mauno Silpala

Former UN official ID'd as pedestrian killed in Alexandria

The native of Finland retired in 2005 and was living in Golden Valley.


Bigger penalty for freeway protesters is closer to reality

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

House passes bill cracking down on freeway protests

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

Dayton vetoes bill that targeted tougher penalties on protesters

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

Activists block streets in Edina, demand officers be disciplined

Activists took to the streets Saturday afternoon to protest police brutality.

Protesters plan to march on U.S. Bank Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday

The protest against corporate greed and racism will take place on the big day itself.

Protesters march through downtown Minneapolis for Philando Castile

Saturday evening's protest was much smaller than the one in St. Paul Friday.

New police relations council will include family of Castile and Clark

The council will present its ideas to the governor and state Legislature.