A Minnesota House committee meeting was briefly adjourned after protesters—furious with the passing of a bill that would allow the government to sue protesters to cover law enforcement costs—overtook the meeting.
Among the protesters was John Thompson, friend of police shooting victim Philando Castile, who passionately argued that reps “should leave, because those seats you’re sitting in will be replaced by somebody who represents us.”
The bill, HF 322, was sponsored by Rep. Nick Zerwas (R – Elk River) and, according to Minnesota’s local CBS affiliate, will “allow local police departments to charge protesters for the costs associated with demonstrations. He is also behind a bill that would make penalties harsher for protesters who shut down traffic on highways.” It passed 9-to-6 along party lines in the House Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee.
Select lawmakers, as well as Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, predict that the bill will unfairly target urban communities and protests centered on “race and equity.”
At the meeting, Thompson shouted, “Shame on y’all. Philando’s blood is on your hands. Philando’s blood is on your hands.”
He later added, “We voted for you to help us, not harm us. Leave. Vacate your seats...Go the hell back to Elk River...You don’t represent us.”
(Elk River is a small city north of Minneapolis. As of the 2010 census, it was 93.4% white.)
In defense of HF 322, Rep. Zerwas previously stated, “If you violate the law, if you block traffic, if you block access to a building, that’s what this bill is for.”
Protesters blocked highways in response to the July slaying of Castile, who was murdered—in front of his girlfriend and child—by police officer Jeronimo Yanez at a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. Approximately a week later, demonstrators physically blocked I-94 West and I-35 with a sit in. Smoke bombs, tear gas, and pepper spray were used on the crowd and dozens were arrested.
The new bills could hold these protesters financially responsible for the police resources used in the Castile demonstrations.