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Dayton vetoes protest penalty bill

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DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed legislation that would have increased penalties for protesters who block freeways, airports and transit lines.

Lawmakers began pushing for the change from a misdemeanor to gross misdemeanor after recent Twin Cities demonstrations against police violence that closed roadways.

Dayton said in his veto message that he supports tougher penalties for freeway and airport demonstrations. But he said the transit part of the bill was too vague.

“The language does not provide clarity regarding the actual crimes, for which it creates stiffer penalties,” Dayton wrote.

Dayton also noted that “current law gives law enforcement the authority and tools needed to protect public safety.”

The bill’s chief sponsor in the House, Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, accused Dayton of flip-flopping on the issue and “bending to the will of fringe activists.”

“The governor has failed to support Minnesota's law enforcement community, putting them at serious risk,” Zerwas said. “I’m disappointed in the veto, but will keep working to protect law-abiding citizens and police officers in our state.”