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Lawmakers Propose Tougher Penalties For Blocking Highways

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers are proposing getting tougher on protesters who block highways.

Rep. Colleen Garry has filed legislation that proposes making it a felony to block highways. If approved, her bill could result in stiffer penalties for those who participate in protests such as the ones that blocked Interstate 93 in two different places during the height of the Thursday morning rush hour.

Colleen Garry
Dracut Rep. Colleen Garry. (Image Credit: Colleen Garry Facebook page)

The Dracut Democrat told The Lowell Sun that everyone has a right to protest, but she was outraged by the recklessness of Thursday's action.

Twenty-nine protesters were arraigned on charges including trespassing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and willfully obstructing an emergency vehicle. The latest highway demonstration came just a month after four men were arrested for trespassing onto the Massachusetts Turnpike and briefly shutting down part of the highway in protest.

Republican State Sen. Richard Ross of Wrentham tells The Sun Chronicle he has proposed increasing fines and lengthening jail terms.

Ross's bill includes a $5,000 fine and up to six months of jail time for anyone who trespasses on a state highway without reason.

"This is first and foremost a public safety issue and the people of the Commonwealth need to know we are doing everything in our power to discourage such reckless behavior," Ross said in a written statement.

Activists said they were fighting racism.

TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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