Democrats Join Republicans in Supporting California Bill to Double Fines for Protesters

Democrats Join Republicans in Supporting California Bill to Double Fines for Protesters

California lawmakers, frustrated by rallies against the Israel-Hamas war like the one that recently clogged traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, want to treble the punishment for protestors who obstruct roadways.

Four Democrats, who disobeyed the committee chair to advance the measure, helped a Republican-authored bill pass a crucial committee vote at the Capitol on Monday.

Though the vote indicates a split among Democrats, who control the state Legislature and have been divided by the protests against the war that have roiled major towns and universities, the legislation still needs to clear the full Assembly and Senate and receive Gov. Gavin Newsom’s backing.

Assemblymember Kate Sanchez’s measure would increase the $100 fine for demonstrators who block a highway and obstruct emergency vehicles from passing to $200. The fine may increase to $1,000 for several infractions within three years.

According to Sanchez, these highway blockades are growing in frequency, recklessness, and danger. As a result, we have already observed detrimental effects on public health and safety.

Chaining themselves to stopped cars, demonstrators stopped traffic on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge on April 15 as part of a national campaign to demand a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Representing a district in Southern California, Sanchez claimed that three organ transplants at a nearby hospital were postponed due to an earlier protest on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. That is actual, she said. This is someone’s health we are discussing.

Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, the chair of the Transportation Committee and a representative of a Bay Area district, rejected the bill arguing that the current penalties are adequate. “I still think the bill is needless and won’t solve the problem in the end,” she declared.

At the hearing, none of the four Democrats who supported the bill—Juan Carrillo, Diane Papan, Chris Ward, and Gregg Hart—explained their votes.

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