The coveted Spotty (tm) - graphic by Tild
by Steve Timmer
May 12, 2018, 5:30 PM

Read the latest Spotty ™ winner

I really wish I had written this one; this was the letter of the day on Thursday, May 10th:

According to “House passes stronger penalty for freeway protests” (May 9), Republicans want to increase penalties for marching on freeways. They are very concerned about causing delays that have “significant consequences.” One woman missed an appointment at Mayo. Another couldn’t get to her mother’s deathbed. These, indeed, are significant consequences caused by traffic delays.

I’m assuming that, buried in the bill somewhere, is a penalty for Vikings, Twins and Gophers games that cause similar traffic problems. No? I guess our entertainment is more important than highlighting human-rights abuses. State Rep. Ilhan Omar says it well: “When you are prioritizing inconveniences over injustices, that tells us a lot.”

Thomas Haines, Eden Prairie

Although Thomas doesn’t touch on it directly, he highlights exactly why House Republican Nick Zerwas’ bill is so odious. By all appearances, Nick seems like a reasonably intelligent fellow, although he has a reckless sweet tooth. I even sent him a note last session when he first introduced this clunker trying to explain to him why it wasn’t a good idea. Alas, it was another case of pissing into the wind.

When people engage in civil disobedience, they recognize there might be a price to pay; it’s one of the reasons we pay attention to civil disobedience.

When you make civil disobedience that has an expressive intent subject to greater penalties than your average scofflaw, though, you are treading impermissibly on First Amendment territory.

I am not sure, frankly, that shutting down a freeway is the most effective protest, but it doesn’t matter. It is still singling out expressive conduct.

It is also chilling First Amendment rights, which means it is the proper subject of a federal court declarative judgment action if this sucker ever becomes law.

Remember, boys and girls, that a Spotty™ is awarded for a letter to the editor, an op-ed piece, or a blog post or comment that I wish I had written myself.

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