Tougher penalties for protesters who shut down freeways, airports and mass transit could become law in Minnesota, with bills awaiting final votes in both the House and Senate and Governor Mark Dayton supporting the measure. Opponents warn it violates First Amendment free speech rights, but Elk River Republican Representative Nick Zerwas says laws already on the books have been upheld. “It is not legal to block a freeway,” he says. “It is not legal to close down an airport. It is not legal to interfere with mass transit.” Activist John Thompson told lawmakers, if they help the community, the protests they’re trying to restrict won’t happen. Thompson said, “You have no idea. The police are shooting unarmed black men,… tasing black men and telling ’em to stop resisting while their hands are behind their back. You have no idea how bad we’re being treated by the police out here!”
Governor Mark Dayton said earlier he supports the measure, arguing First Amendment rights can’t interfere with public safety.
Here’s testimony from two people on opposite sides of the issue. First, House co-sponsor, Representative Nick Zerwas:
Brad Lehto with the Minnesota AFL-CIO has a different view: