News

Fennell legislation protests protests

State Rep. Robert Fennell of Lynn and two of his colleagues were upset Thursday as they watched on TV protesters blocking traffic on Route 93 in Medford and Milton, crippling the morning commute and preventing an ambulance transporting a seriously injured man from getting to a Boston hospital.They were downright furious later in the day when the 29 who were arrested for causing the public-safety hazard were arraigned and released without bail. So, they decided to do something about it.Fennell and Rep. Thomas Golden of Lowell are co-sponsors of a bill filed Friday by Rep. David Nangle of Lowell, establishing fines up to $10,000 and a prison term of up to five years for anyone impeding traffic on a public way.Friday was the deadline for filing bills in the House of Representatives and state Senate.?I?m not a knee-jerk reaction person,” Fennell said. “But nothing like this has ever happened before to my knowledge. Something had to be done so the next time anybody tries something like this there are serious consequences.”HD 2678 – An Act Relative to Impeding the Flow of Traffic on a Public Way – calls for a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $5,000 and/or imprisonment up to one year for “intentionally and without lawful authority” impeding or interfering with traffic on a public street or highway. If convicted, subsequent offenses would be met with fines of $2,500 to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.The bill further stipulates that if the action results in substantial bodily injury to anyone, the fine for the first conviction is $5,000 to $10,000 and imprisonment up to two years. If it results in someone?s death, there would be a jail term of 2? to 5 years.Anyone found guilty of violating the provisions of the law, if it were enacted by the legislature, would also be required to make restitution to responding public-safety agencies and private emergency services agencies.?We were outraged (Thursday) that people were able to walk free,” said Fennell, who shares office space with Nangle and Golden. “Then to see them come out of court with a look of arrogance and tell reporters to get out of their way. There has to be some penalty to discourage people from doing it again.”The 29 people who were arrested – 18 in Medford and 11 in Milton – were charged with conspiracy, resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct. One protester was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon. Two other men were arrested when they attempted to return a rental truck in Braintree that was used to transport the barrels and the protestors to the scene in Milton.The protesters said they staged the blockade to call attention to racial injustice in the wake of police killings of unarmed black men in New York and Missouri.At least two other lawmakers filed similar bills Friday. State Rep. Colleen Garry of Dracut filed two bills that would amend the state?s “attempted-murder and manslaughter statutes to include ?purposefully causing harm to an individual or killing an individual by blocking access to and/or a public highway or roadway.?”Sen. Richard Ross of Wrentham proposed a bill that would up the minimum for trespassing on a state highway without just cause to “a fine not less than $5,000 or imprisonment not more than six months.”Other legislators have two weeks to sign on to any of the bills, at which time they will be sent into committee, Fennell said. It is likely that one comprehensive bill will be reported out to the overall body.It is not likely that any bill will be approved in the very near future, as committee assignments for the new House and Senate have yet to be determined, said Fennell, who added he is hoping the bill is one of the first to be acted on in the new session.

More Stories In News