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California Bill Would Double Penalties for Protesters Blocking Traffic

California Bill Would Double Penalties for Protesters Blocking Traffic

Protesters block traffic in San Francisco, in a file photo. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

4/17/2024

Updated: 4/17/2024

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A California lawmaker is looking to double penalties for protesters who block traffic on highways, a method used April 15 by pro-Palestinian demonstrators hoping to disrupt the economy throughout the state.
Republican Assemblywoman Kate Sanchez of Rancho Santa Margarita introduced Assembly Bill 2742 Feb. 15 and announced the legislation with a video posted on X. Her bill calls for fines ranging from $200 for a first conviction to possibly $1,000 for later convictions.
Calling it “common-sense legislation,” the freshman lawmaker hopes the stronger fines will send a message.
“Protesters have crossed a dangerous line, and as a result, they’re stopping people from living their day-to-day lives,” Ms. Sanchez said in the video. “Parents are blocked from picking up their kids from school. Fire trucks are prevented from responding to fires. And ambulances are hindered from getting their patients the emergency medical attention they desperately need.
“When a speeding ticket fine costs someone more than putting people’s lives in direct danger, something has to change,” she added. “That is why I introduced common-sense legislation to double the fines for people blocking freeways and to let these criminals know this practice will no longer be tolerated.”
San Mateo attorney Paula Canny told NBC News tougher penalties could deter future incidents.
“The issue really becomes is it OK to protest in a way that impacts so many people who are just trying to go about their lives,” Ms. Canny told the news station Monday.
She also said the state may need new laws similar to other states that make impeding traffic a felony.
Woods Ervin, co-director of the grassroots organization Critical Resistance in Oakland, participated in a demonstration that shut down the Bay Bridge in November. She told the news station she anticipates joining a similar protest in the future, despite the penalties.
“It has been actions such as these that people have been taking across the world that have actually been moving the needle,” she said.
The bill, which would modify the Vehicle Code section that currently applies to obstructing emergency vehicles and fines violators $100-$500, is working its way through the Legislature this session and is awaiting a hearing in the Assembly’s transportation committee.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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