Washington’s legislature recently unveiled legislation that would increase penalties for individuals who protest by blocking highways.
State Rep. Andrew Barkis (R) sponsored House Bill 2358, which would issue severe penalties for those who block freeways to protest.
In an effort to bring a permanent end to highway blockages that endanger lives, cripple commutes, and undermine law and order, 2nd District Rep. Andrew Barkis introduced House Bill 2358 that would inflict tougher penalties on those taking part in such illegal activities. #waleg pic.twitter.com/b8iMXo2Jn9
— Washington State House Republicans (@WaHouseGOP) January 12, 2024
Barkis introduced the legislation shortly after anti-Israel protesters decided to block a freeway in Seattle, Washington, heavily exacerbating traffic. On social media, videos showed the protesters chanting phrases such as “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go!”
The Washington state lawmaker said the protest in Seattle was “illegally” conducted on the freeway.
“This protest was organized and supported and led illegally onto the freeway, using unlawful tactics to stop traffic in downtown Seattle,” Barkis said.
In a statement to The Center Square, Barkis said he was starstruck by two specific things that occurred during the events in Seattle.
“One, why are they allowing this, that was my first thought,” he said. “And two, I could see sitting in the middle, an ambulance, and who knows what’s going on in that ambulance, a cardiac arrest, a woman in birth?”
“It doesn’t matter, it’s being blocked illegally,” he added.
Days following the unlawful protests in Seattle, Barkis returned to the Washington legislature and brought forth the issue of freeway-blocking protesters.
“What is the law right now?” he rhetorically asked. “And it turns out it is against the law [to block the freeway], but it’s pretty weak. People know there’s not much of a consequence to make it not worth doing the crime or the action.”
Barkis’ bill would try to disincentivize individuals from using highways as places of protest by elevating charges against them to a Class C felony. The Washington state representative called such a charge “a pretty big penalty.”
Individuals with prior convictions would face a minimum fine of $6,125 and 60 days in jail under Barkis’ legislation.
“If you’re a known organizer in charge of this whole thing, you also are subject to a Class C felony with an additional jail time penalty,” he said.
“It looks like the people behind this [Saturday’s protest] have been behind other protests like this, including blocking the freeway before, so if this passes maybe, just maybe people will think twice before doing this,” Barkis continued.