By Greg Davids
In response to recent protests that shut down Interstate 94 and the Minneapolis Airport, legislation has been sponsored that would increase penalties against those who break the law while attempting to exercise their 1st Amendment rights, and I strongly support it.
In no way do I want to limit free speech or curb the ability of residents to peacefully protest. But when you choose to walk onto a 65-mile per hour freeway, you have put your life, along with the lives of drivers and law enforcement, in jeopardy. It is also an illegal activity, and in an effort to prevent people from continuing to break the law this bill simply increases the penalties on a current statute.
The current intentional public highway obstruction law is a misdemeanor and is clearly not deterring lawbreakers from protesting on a freeway. The proposed legislation would strengthen the penalty to a gross misdemeanor, which increases the probability for a stay in jail, higher fine, and longer probation.
Along with the imminent danger that an interstate protest causes, I’m also concerned about those who may be stuck in traffic, such as someone who has suffered a massive heart attack and is being rushed to the hospital.
The goal here is to strengthen a law that’s already on the books and force people to think twice before entering an interstate. Drivers and emergency personnel should not be put at risk because a group of people is mad and wants to break the law by shutting down Interstate 94.
There may be other bills out there that try to limit protests, but the bill I support is just trying to keep people safe. This is not anti-protest legislation, and anyone who thinks otherwise has either not read the bill or is not being honest with themselves. We should all be able to agree that if you break the law you should be held accountable.