A Minnesota lawmaker has asked the federal government to withhold federal transportation funds from the state if leaders continue to allow protesters to block highways.
“In the last few months, we have seen two of our primary interstates blocked by protesters, 35 and 94, with the acquiescence of state and local officials. While some arrests have been made, the penalty for this offense is low; it encourages others to protest in the same way,” Rep. Cal Bahr (R-East Bethel) said in a letter sent Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr.
The Republican lawmaker works as a commercial truck driver and previously owned a trucking company.
In addition to Attorney General Barr, his letter was sent to Gov. Tim Walz, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher.
“As someone who has a commercial driver’s license myself, I know firsthand how dangerous this situation is for all concerned,” he said in his letter. “On May 31, a fuel hauler named Bogdan Virechko was trapped on the I-35W Bridge, blocked by protesters, which MNDOT had failed to secure properly. MNDOT has cameras everywhere along that road, and knowing that they had been unable to restrict traffic in that area, they allowed protesters to block it anyway.”
Bahr said the incident could have resulted in “many deaths” were it not for the actions of Virechko, who was assaulted by protesters and briefly jailed.
“I don’t need to tell you that allowing situations like this to develop in Minnesota and other states strikes at the heart of our interstate commerce system and our rights as citizens to move freely about the country and engage in transactions of all kinds,” said the letter.
“Skirting the rule of law and making excuses for lawless behavior leads to civil discord and, ultimately, the destruction of society. I encourage you, your office, along with other federal agencies, to use every tool at your disposal up to and including withholding federal funds if these actions are allowed to continue,” it concluded.
The right to peacefully protest is “essential to our nation,” but no individual or group has the “right to restrict other citizens from traveling freely,” Bahr said in a statement.
“The unlawful blocking of highways by protesters is a severe infringement on the rights of all Minnesotans,” he said. “Finally, state and local leaders have failed to maintain order when protesters have blocked highways.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Minnesota Highway Protests” by Fibonacci Blue. CC BY 2.0.