Freeway protesters would face harsher penalties under this new bill

The bill's author says interstate protests are a threat to public safety.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

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

Zach Parise

Ghosts of Wild's past force split with Sharks

Brent Burns and Ryan Donato thwarted a comeback attempt by the Wild.

Avante Dickerson

Top-ranked recruit Avante Dickerson decommits from Gopher football

The four-star cornerback was the highest-rated recruit in Minnesota's 2021 class.

u.s. district court minnesota - federal court minneapolis

Limits on in-person court activity extended for 45 days

The statewide order extends current limitations through March 15.

D'Angelo Russell / Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves need more from D'Angelo Russell

The Wolves haven't gotten what they expected since making a blockbuster trade.

oct. 20 snow crash

Spinouts, crashes still happening after snow leaves MN roads a mess

The snow storm caused at least 208 crashes this weekend.

1024px-Crock_pot

For The Week: Food tips and tricks to get you through the next 7 days

BMTN's food writer Lindsay Guentzel makes life easier for Minnesotans.

snow, plow

Here's how much snow fell in Saturday's storm in Minnesota

MSP Airport had the highest total as of 7 a.m. Sunday with 5.3 inches.

Screen Shot 2021-01-18 at 3.17.49 PM

No KAT? No D'Lo? No problem as Timberwolves defeat Pelicans

The Timberwolves were without Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell, but still picked up a (SCORE) win.

Screen Shot 2021-01-23 at 7.53.44 PM

Spinouts, crashes across Twin Cities as snow gets heavier

There have been multiple incidents across the metro area.

Mason Branstrator

Family, friends raising funds for teen soccer standout with spinal injury

Mason Branstrator of Duluth was injured in a skiing accident.

Related

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 march through downtown Minneapolis for Philando Castile

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

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.

New police relations council will include family of Castile and Clark

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