Bills that would increase penalties on protesters blocking freeways, airports and public transit await final votes on the floors of the Minnesota House and Senate after clearing their final committees today. Opponents shouted “shame on you!” after committees voted to send the bills to the floors. Republican Representative Nick Zerwas from Elk River, who’s co-sponsoring the measure, says people who block freeways should go to jail. “Public disruption and everything grinding to a halt gets a lot of attention,” he says. “It has become the go-to move for protesters.” Activist John Thompson responded, “Jamar Clark was murdered by the Minneapolis Police Department! So if you want us to stop protesting, sir, stop giving us a reason to protest!”
There were unsuccessful attempts in Senate committee to soften the bill. Saint Paul Park Democrat and police officer Dan Schoen proposed protesters get four hours after a police warning to leave the area, or penalties would go up. Schoen says, “This is our job, to maintain law and order, and sometimes that comes with negotiation.” Alexandria Republican and former sheriff Bill Ingebrigtsen responds, “Negotiating with people that are very angry at the scene doesn’t work very well…. They were told to leave the scene. They were given that warning. They made a choice to stay there. They get a ticket written and they go right back out on the line again.”
Governor Mark Dayton indicated earlier he supports the bill, pointing to public safety considerations.