Protesters Who Block Major Highways

Hello Will,
What is the current law regarding those who engage in protests that block traffic on major roads and endamger public safety? This morning’s protests, which tied up traffic on 93S and 93N during rush hour, prevented a car crash victim in Easton from being transported to BMC, a Level 1 Trauma Center, and instead that victim was transported to a Brockton hospital. Even if this person survives, not having access to the appropriate level of medical care in a timely manner could adversely affect the patient’s recovery and could result in permanent irreversible injury.

Protesters who are arrested, charged and convicted of blocking highways should be responsible for repaying the cost of police and fire fighters who respond to the situation, just for starters. Additionally, if any person suffers injury due to inability or delay in accessing appropriate medical attention, protesters should be held criminally and civilly liable.

If current laws are not stringent enough to punish protesters and dissuade future protesters from breaking laws and endangering public safety, I believe legislation should be introduced that would address this problem. I am not an attorney, but if I can assist in introducing such legislation, I would be willing to help out in any way.

Thank you.

3 replies on “Protesters Who Block Major Highways”

  1. Thanks, Marilyn.

    I am pretty sure these protesters broke lots of laws and can be prosecuted in a lot of ways. I’m not sure what the prosecutors will want to do, but the decisions that the prosecutors make will not be constrained by lack of legal tools.

    I’ll watch it closely to confirm my beliefs on that score.

    UPDATE: Gaps are emerging — we may have to do something legislatively on this. I’ll report more here.

    1. Under current law, without any statutory changes, the crimes for which the protestors were charged do include incarceration as a potential consequence. The protestors were not all arraigned on the same charges, but there was substantial overlap.

      The charges include the following:

      Resisting Arrest
      Willfully Obstructing an Emergency Vehicle
      Disorderly Conduct
      Throwing an Object on a Public Way
      Throwing Glass on a Public Way
      Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle
      Carrying a dangerous weapon (in this case, an expandable baton)

      Here is an inventory of the maximum penalties for the offenses for which the protestors were charged:

      Trespassing [assuming the charge is trespassing upon land or premises belonging to the Commonwealth]: Incarceration for 3 months/$50 fine, pursuant to Section 123 of Chapter 266 of the General Laws.

      Resisting Arrest: Incarceration for 2 ½ years/$500 fine, pursuant to Section 32B of Chapter 268 of the General Laws.

      Willfully Obstructing an Emergency Vehicle: Incarceration for 3 months/$50 fine (first offense); incarceration for 1 year/$500 fine (for the second or subsequent offense) with additional suspension of driver’s license for third or subsequent offenses, pursuant to Section 7 of Chapter 89 of the General Laws.

      Conspiracy: The maximum penalty depends on the purpose of the conspiracy or any of the means for achieving the purpose of the conspiracy, pursuant to Section 7 of Chapter 274 of the General Laws.

      Disorderly Conduct: $150 fine (first offense); incarceration for 6 months/$200 fine (for the second or subsequent offense), pursuant to Section 53 of Chapter 272 of the General Laws.

      Throwing an Object on a Public Way: Incarceration for 1 year/$100 fine, pursuant to Section 35 of Chapter 265 of the General Laws.

      Throwing Glass on a Public Way: Incarceration for 1 month/$100 fine, pursuant to Section 32 of Chapter 265 of the General Laws.

      Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle: Incarceration for two years (with a mandatory minimum of 30 days)/$500 fine (for the first offense); incarceration for five years (with a mandatory minimum if in a house of correction of 30 days)/$1,000 fine (for the second offense); incarceration for five years (with mandatory minimums of 6 months in house of correction or 2.5 years if in state prison)/$1,000 fine (with a minimum of a $200 fine) (for the third or subsequent offense committed within five years of the earliest of 2 most recent prior offenses), pursuant to Section 24 of Chapter 90 of the General Laws.

      Carrying a dangerous weapon (in this case, an expandable baton): Incarceration for 5 years (2.5 years minimum); or 2.5 years in a House of Correction/$50 fine if not previously convicted of a felony, pursuant to Section 10 (b) of Chapter 269 of the General Laws.

      Anne Johnson Landry
      Committee Counsel and Policy Advisor
      Office of Senator William N. Brownsberger

  2. Marilyn,

    I agree with you that civil demonstration should not create major public inconveniences.(or at least minimize the impact)

    Further more, intentionally blocking highway traffics or public transit, while there are many other legal venues available, should be treated as a crime.

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