By Michael Layer
St. Charles County state representative plans to file a bill increasing penalties for blocking roadways
ST. LOUIS – Rep. Nick Schroer defended his proposed bill to increase penalties for protestors blocking traffic on the October 15 episode of This Week in Missouri Politics. Schroer hopes his bill will increase safety and allow infrastructure to run smoothly.
Schroer’s bill was inspired by an October 4 protest in St. Louis, where 143 people were arrested for blocking Interstate 64 (Highway 40.) They were protesting following the not guilty verdict that found former officer Jason Stockley not guilty for the death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
He faced criticism on the show from Anne Schweitzer, a senior associate with Public Eye St. Louis, who felt the bill punishes protestors for speaking out against the government, criticizing their lack of policy on police-related shootings.
“They are putting their lives to go on the highway, to get attention: to get your attention,” Schweitzer said, pointing to Schroer. “[Protestors are in the road] to make sure that people in government decide that maybe it does matter that black people aren’t shot by the police. Maybe it does matter that there are laws to protect them.”
Host Scott Faughn pushed back on her argument saying “there has to be some rule of law,” which was one of the main reasons why Schroer wanted to file the bill. Earlier in the show, Schroer remembers when protestors blocked Highway 70 during the 2014 protests in Ferguson and when it affected first responders in Boston.
“This is a law that is already in the books that says that it is illegal to impede traffic. The reason we have laws and penalties in the first place is to deter criminal behavior, to deter a certain type of behavior that we have deemed to put Missourians at risk,” Schroer said. “When we see situations that happened in Boston, where first responders had to operate on somebody in the back of an ambulance because the highway was blocked; they couldn’t get to the hospital. This is something that we need to take a look at.”
Specifically, in Missouri, lawmakers tried to pass a similar bill this March. Rep. Nick Marshall sponsored a bill that would have raised punishments for blocking traffic from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony. While the bill failed to get past the Missouri House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee, Schroer plans on filing his bill in December for the upcoming 2018 session.
Mindy Mazur, principal of GPS Impact, felt that a better alternative to the bill would be to address the concerns of the protestors, however, Faughn felt that Schroer’s bill would be popular in the Missouri legislature and could pass anyway. David Barklage, senior partner of Barklage & Knodell, agreed.
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This story originally appeared on The Missouri Times.