It is a melancholy object to those who drive on the Evil Metro's interstate system or travel on public transit, when they see the streets, the roads, and bus and light-rail doors, crowded with African-American protesters and their allies objecting to the deaths of their fellow citizens at the hands of law enforcement, followed by three, four, or six members of Unicorn Riot, all in video gear and importuning every passenger for an interview.
These protesters, instead of being able to work and cut a check to the Citizens League & The Current for a Policy and Pints evening of oh-so-civil chatter, or securing a place at the table with the Itasca Project, are forced to employ all their time in strolling the freeways to beg for attention for justice for their dead community members. As the protests grow, they become either excuses for shootings by random racists, or attract the attention of state representative Nick Zerwas, a simple fellow who believes the recourse for such behavior is a year's jail time. As ace reporter Andy Mannix tweeted during yesterday's consideration of Zerwas' vision:
Zerwas:"If youre on the freeway, if youre blocking an airport, if youre blocking a train, you deserve to go to jail. It’s just that simple.”— Andy Mannix (@AndrewMannix) April 3, 2017
At the Star Tribune, Mannix provides an more in-depth look at that worldview and its discontents in After testy debate, House passes $2.3B public safety measure.
We think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of road, transit and mall shutdowns is in the present deplorable state of the State of Minnesota a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making protesters sound, useful and visible members of the Gopher State, would deserve so well of the public as to have her statue set up for a preserver of the North.
As a resident bucolic Greater Minnesota, we have often observed farmers mowing and haying publicly-owned right-of-ways along trunk highways in broad daylight, despite laws that prohibit mowing before late summer. And just last week, Chris Swedzinski’s ditch-mowing legislation passed in the Minnesota House, forbidding any rules to govern the gathering and selling of fodder taken off these roadside public(if narrow) lands.
Earlier in March, the Strib's Josephine Marcotty reported in As grasslands shrink, a rural war rages over mowing ditches:
A showdown over roadside mowing in rural Minnesota has unleashed a surprisingly passionate debate at the Legislature about the culture of farming, property rights and the desperate plight of bees and monarch butterflies.
It’s put wildlife in a fierce — but so far losing — competition with Minnesota farmers for the right to the increasingly valuable grass, flowers and other vegetation that grow along 175,000 acres of state-owned roads across the state.
A bill headed for a vote on the House floor would prevent the Minnesota Department of Transportation from asking landowners to get a permit before they mow roadside ditches and grassy shoulders . . .
In fact, a law on Minnesota’s books since 1985 prohibits roadside mowing before Aug. 1 and after Aug. 31 — a long-ago effort to protect nesting pheasants.
But it’s been widely ignored, transportation officials said; only about 40 permits a year have been issued for 12,000 miles of state-owned roadway. Officials said the agency has no power or penalties to enforce it.In rural Minnesota, landowners adjacent to the roads largely believe they own the land to the centerline and the government has rights to use it, he said. While that’s largely true for county and township roads, it’s not so for the state.
That conflict--and the law-breaking behavior of the farmers--has earned both a lot of sympathy from Minnesota lawmakers and attention from the press.
Should Governor Dayton sign the omnibus public safety bill, Bluestem thinks that there's one easy way for BLM protestors to avoid arrest while gathering attention (and perhaps a little revenue). Don't break a Minnesota law by blocking traffic. Instead, pick up a few vintage tractors, mowers, and haying implements and head out to rural Minnesota's state highways before or after August. Make hay while the sun shines--and sell your hay bales to buy more farm equipment and a place at the table of policy making.
Since such law-breaking is deemed acceptable by the state legislature, the act of civil disobedience (and selling state property) won't be followed by the sort of draconian punishment Zerwas demands for blocking highways and transit without the chance of turning a dollar. It's an all-Minnesota win.
Bluestem professes, in the sincerity of our heart, that we have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of our state, by advancing agriculture trade, providing for justice, relieving the equity gap, and giving some pleasure to the legislators eating, talking, sleeping, playing cards and lounging around looking pale in the Minnesota House retiring room while the body is in session.
Bluestem has no property beside a state highway from which we can propose to get a single bail, nor do we keep even a pygmy goat for which we need fodder. Indeed, we find fodder enough for our purposes simply by paying attention to the Minnesota House.
For an earlier post related to the blocking of transit, please read Will MN House GOP Caucus members get jail time for restricting access to transit vehicles?
Photo: In July 2016, the shooting death of Philando Castile by police prompted community members to block part of I94 in St. Paul. Should increased penalties for this behavior become law, Bluestem recommends that future civil disobedience consist of mow-ins along state highways. Image by Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune.
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