House GOP revives push to crack down on highway protests

Published 8:27 am Friday, March 16, 2018

ST. PAUL — A Republican effort to increase the penalty to a maximum of a year in jail for protesters found guilty of blocking transportation during demonstrations generated a heated debate among Minnesota lawmakers on Thursday.

Legislation was first proposed last year in response to a string of Black Lives Matter protests over officer-involved shootings that affected interstate highway traffic, the Twin Cities airport and Mall of America. But the proposal was dropped during budget negotiations last spring. The Republican-led House Public Safety committee renewed the push Thursday, passing the bill along party lines over strong opposition from Democrats.

Republicans touted the bill as a way to discourage such protests, which they said endanger public safety. Elk River Republican Rep. Nick Zerwas pointed to instances when police officers were injured at protests that spilled onto interstate highways.

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