Freeway Protesting in MN Might Become a Serious Crime

Credit: Ben Garvin, KARE 11

New Bill Would Make Protesting on a Freeway a Gross Misdemeanor

St. Paul, MN – Minnesota legislators are proposing a new bill that would make freeway protesting a serious crime.

This comes after a Ramsey County judge on Wednesday tossed out third-degree riot charges against over 40 people who blocked I-94 in a protest last July. Over 300 protesters participated in the demonstration after the shooting of Philando Castile, shutting down the freeway.

This is not a one-time event. Protesters have been hitting the freeway more frequently, with the latest incident happening in November. Demonstrators moved onto I-94 with an anti-Trump demonstration, blocking the highly-traveled thoroughfare that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul, following the election.

This growing trend to use freeways as demonstration areas has lawmakers concerned. Rep. Kathy Lohmer is the author of a new bill that would up the penalties for protesters found on freeways in Minnesota.

The current law allows a maximum penalty of a misdemeanor with up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail. Rep. Lohmer’s bill would change this to a gross misdemeanor, allowing up to $3,000 in fines and one year in jail.

Rep. Lohmer told WCCO that this bill is about public safety and obeying the laws of the freeway.

“Freeways are not really public spaces, like parks and places like that. You need a license to drive on the freeway. You can’t walk on the freeway,” Lohmer said in a WCCO interview.

The new bill has been referred to the Transportation and Regional Governance Policy Committee.

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