Bill would increase penalty for protesters who block roads

- The valley has seen its own fair share of political protests. Now a local lawmaker is trying to make it so these people who block campaign events will face stiffer penalties.

If this bill is modified it would increase the punishment from a class 3 misdemeanor to a class 1 misdemeanor for anyone blocking access to a political campaign event.

"The current law gives a minor slap on the wrist, a class 3 misdemeanor for people who block traffic," said Senator John Kavanagh.

It's something Kavanagh is trying to change, he sponsored an amendment to House Bill 2548 increasing the penalty to a class 1 misdemeanor which carries a maximum of 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

"Any kind of obstruction to traffic is bad, but when you're trying to erode democracy and trample other people's first amendment rights, it's very bad, and it deserves a stronger punishment," said Kavanagh.

All of this comes after protesters blocked traffic in Fountain Hills at a Donald Trump rally.

"This is unbelievably corrosive to the democratic process. It's necessary for voters to be able to hear candidates to form their opinion so they can vote intelligently," he said.

Executive Director of Puente Arizona, Carlos Garcia, helped organize the March protest. Several people with his organization were arrested and their cars were towed. He says if this bill is modified he and others with the group will continue to stand up for what they believe in.

"Blocking traffic and risking arrest and civil disobedience is just showing the escalation and the importance of what we're doing. We are also willing to be arrested and taken to jail and have this on our record for the rest of our lives to make the point and show people are being harmed by these policies or speeches like Donald Trump," said Carlos Garcia.

The bill passed on a 14-9 vote on Thursday, it advanced in the house and is awaiting a formal vote.

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