Rep. Andrew Barkis proposes new tools for law enforcement and prosecutors to end highway protests

Republican legislation suggests tougher penalties to deter illegal highway blockades. John Sattgast reports from the state Capitol.

Representative Andrew Barkis of Olympia wants to permanently end protests that block traffic on highways. House Bill 2358 would increase penalties for anyone involved.

“It starts as a gross misdemeanor, and that is for the obstruction of a highway – and then it bumps to a Class C Felony if a person is a leader or organizer of the people that are engaging in the obstruction of a highway – and you know with a Class C penalty you have a higher monetary penalty of $5,000 which may not be reduced to anything less than a thousand, and then also you have some potential jail time of a minimum of 30 days.”

The Barkis bill has bipartisan support and comes in response to recent protests that shut down I-5 in Seattle.

“People are sick of this – they’re sick of this lawlessness – they’re sick of what’s going on in our cities. We’ve got to do something, and I want to give the tools to law enforcement; we need more law enforcement, prosecution, but this has got to stop.”

The legislation has been referred to the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee, where it awaits further action.

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