Omar tries to garner opposition to bill increasing penalty for illegal protesters
St. Paul, MN – Minnesota State Representative Ilhan Omar (DFL – Minneapolis) sent out a release urging opposition to a bill that would increase the penalty for obstructing freeways, airports and train tracks.
As Alpha News previously reported, HF 390 was introduced by Representative Nick Zerwas (R – Elk River) after a series of illegal protests in Minnesota blocked freeways, shut down the airport, and racked up costs for taxpayers.
On Tuesday Omar sent out a release with misleading information about the bill. “As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I am forced to point out the extraordinary irony that House Republicans are attempting to silence voices and to criminalize the very type of non-violent protest that African-Americans used to bring about the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960’s,” penned Omar.
Zerwas says Omar’s release contained several inaccuracies. HF 390 does not criminalize protesting. In fact, HF 390 does not criminalize anything.
“If you actually read the bill, it does not make a single thing illegal that is not already illegal,” says Zerwas. “It makes nothing new illegal. It does not create a new crime. It does nothing other than increase criminal penalties for things that are already illegal.” Zerwas says opponents to the bill have been misleading the public since its introduction.
Zerwas says he heard from hundreds of Minnesotans who were negatively impacted by the illegal protests. “People missed flights to see their dying relatives, ambulances were blocked from getting to the hospital,” explained Zerwas, stating, “If your protest never violates the law, if you stay off the freeway, if you don’t try to shut down the airport, if you don’t link arms and lay across a train track, this bill will never impact you.”
Several times in her email Omar compared the Civil Rights Movement with last year’s string of illegal protests, stating, “I won’t stand by as my Republican colleagues would have Minnesota throw people in jail for speaking out in the same way Dr. King did at Selma. Too many of us have fought too long for the right to be heard, to be silenced now.”
Zerwas pointed out that Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has stated that he is also concerned about protests blocking freeways and putting public safety at risk.
Zerwas says he expects the bill to pass in the House.
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