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Edwards's bill targets protesters blocking roads

U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards introduced a bill this week that would make it a federal crime to intentionally obstruct, delay or affect commerce by blocking a public road or highway.

The Safe and Open Streets Act is a direct response to the radical acts of obstruction from pro-Palestine and pro-Hamas protestors who have intentionally blocked roads and subverted commerce in North Carolina and across the country, Edwards' office said in news release. Recent protests in America’s major cities, including Washington, New York City and Chicago, have blocked drivers from using highways and roadways paid for by tax dollars. The legislation would penalize those who purposely block roads by imposing fines and up to five years of imprisonment upon conviction.

"In Western North Carolina, we’ve seen radical protestors block roads and stop the flow of daily commerce, presenting both a tremendous nuisance and inherent danger to drivers," Edwards said. "Protestors do not own the roads, and their tactics are endangering the safety and livelihoods of our citizens. These protestors’ reckless actions can place lives at risk in an emergency and should be a federal crime. The Safe and Open Streets Act will help prevent incidents like the recent one in Durham, as well as those a few years ago in Asheville, from happening again in North Carolina and elsewhere.”

Fellow North Carolina congressmen David Rouzer and Richard Hudson are co-leading the bill with Edwards, while Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) are sponsoring a Senate bill.