A Missouri lawmaker will file legislation in January to increase penalties on those who impede traffic on roads and interstates without a permit.
St. Louis Police say they made 143 arrests on Tuesday night, after protesters blocked traffic on Interstate 64 (Highway 40), near Kingshighway.
State Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, tells Missourinet the First Amendment does not allow for the intentional disruption of the flow of traffic.
“It’s a situation that presents a clear and present danger that allows state governments, and even the federal government if they wanted to, to chime in and enact policies and penalties, so to speak,” Schroer says.
Schroer, an attorney, says the current penalty is a misdemeanor, if it’s prosecuted at all. He is still working on the bill, including the specifics of what the proposed penalties would be.
Schroer, who was elected to the House in 2016, says it’s also a safety issue.
“This is something that is unsafe to the protesters, it’s unsafe to the families, to the pedestrians, the civilians driving their cars,” says Schroer.
A similar bill from veteran State Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, died in the Missouri House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee in March.
Under the Marshall bill, the offense of unlawful traffic interference on a public street or highway would have been a class A misdemeanor for the first violation and a class E felony for subsequent violations. The offense of unlawful traffic interference committed on an interstate highway would have been a class E felony.
Critics of the Marshall bill included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., D-St. Louis, who said during the March hearing that protests are meant to make people feel uncomfortable.
“To make people uncomfortable, to let people know that it’s not going to be business as usual, and actually make your voice heard,” Franks said in March.
The “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” reports Representative Franks was one of the 143 people arrested on Tuesday night.
Franks has been a protest leader following the September not guilty verdict of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley. Stockley was charged in St. Louis City with first degree murder and armed criminal action, for the December 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith during a police pursuit.
As for Schroer, he tells Missourinet some protesters have damaged motorists’ vehicles, citing an alleged September incident on Main Street in St. Charles.
Schroer says his bill will protect the First Amendment rights of protesters. He also says this is about interstate commerce.
Missouri lawmakers can begin pre-filing bills on Friday, December 1.
The 2018 session will begin in Jefferson City on Wednesday January 3.
Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet news director Brian Hauswirth and State Rep. Nick Schroer, which was recorded on October 4, 2017: