State lawmakers are warning protesters that if they want to exercise their right to free speech and peaceful assembly, they must do so in a safe environment – like, not on the highway.
This after dozens of protesters were arraigned Thursday on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, after they blocked traffic on Interstate 93 in Medford and Milton, snarling the morning commute and causing what police called a “serious risk to public safety.”
State representative Tim Whelan of Barnstable, said in a Facebook post Thursdayhat he had filed a bill that would increase penalties for people blocking traffic. “An Act to Enhance Safety on Public Ways” would include penalties of prison up to a year and fines up to $2,500 Whelan said.
In his statement, Whelan called the action “irresponsible” and said it inconvenienced thousands of motorists and drained public resources.
“The fact that emergency vehicles, including ambulances transporting medically fragile patients, were delayed or re-routed is appalling.”
Whelan is not alone in his outrage. State representative Colleen Garry of Dracut filed two bills that would make protests like Thursday’s a felony, according to a report by The Lowell Sun.
“I’m just outraged that people would be that reckless,” Garry told The Sun. “Everyone has a right to protest, but to to do that kind of thing in a highway or a roadway? I’m very furious about it, if you can tell.”