Thank you Star Tribune for urging Gov. Dayton to ‘keep the greater good in mind’ and sign the ‘protest’ bill

The Star Tribune should be commended (again!) for their May 19 editorial urging Gov. Dayton to sign the bill enhancing penalties for protesters who block highways or airports.  I say “again” because the Star Tribune previously editorialized in support of this cause 15 months ago, and I thanked them here.  [Star Tribune photo.]

Saturday’s newspaper editorial was titled, “Protesters go too far in blocking highways,” but the online headline was much stronger and to the point: “Protesters endanger themselves and others when blocking highways: Dayton should sign bill that would increase penalties.”  I hope Gov. Dayton and his advisers see the online version.

Here are the highlights of the Star Tribune’s supportive editorial:

[P]rotests that intentionally spill onto major highways, blocking ramps and lanes, often at peak travel times, present an imminent and intentional danger to the protesters, law enforcement officers and the public at large. Passions run high in such situations, and one infuriated or inattentive motorist is all it would take to turn a protest into a full-scale tragedy.

Those who talk about drivers being “inconvenienced” are being disingenuous and dismissive of legitimate concerns. Whether it’s an ambulance driver heading to a medical emergency or a parent picking up a waiting child or perhaps a worker who could lose their job for being late, motorists have a right to expect that they will not be trapped for who knows how long by blockages in all lanes and both directions of a major freeway. Unlike protests that block city streets, vehicles caught in a highway blockage have nowhere to go. That makes for a dangerous situation that presents far more than an inconvenience.

Blocking highways is already a misdemeanor. But that has proved an insufficient deterrent. Making a violation a gross misdemeanor, with its higher penalties, should have an effect.

Even support from the American Civil Liberties Union!

The ACLU of Minnesota, in informing potential protesters of their rights, notes that “[t]he First Amendment does not protect speech that is combined with the violation of established laws such as trespassing, disobeying or interfering with a lawful order by a police officer.” Neither does it protect acts of protest that endanger others.

From the Star Tribune’s January 2017 editorial:

Blocking a freeway or a train track goes beyond peaceful protest. Those are inherently aggressive acts, designed to trigger a confrontation with law enforcement. They pose an immediate hazard to the protesters and motorists, as well as law enforcement.  …

[P]rotesters must recognize they do not have a right to jeopardize the safety of others.

Thank you Star Tribune!  It’s been crazy in the past to constantly hear the media describe these life-threatening acts as a “peaceful protest,” even though activists were shutting down highways and essentially taking drivers hostage.

Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment.