NY Democrats Support ‘Domestic Terrorism’ Charges For Protesters Blocking Traffic

Legislation introduced by Democrats in the New York State Assembly would lead to protesters facing “domestic terrorism” charges for blocking traffic.

The bill, A.8951, was introduced by Democrat Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato. It would reclassify the crime of blocking public roads, bridges, transportation facilities and tunnels as an act of domestic terrorism — a class D felony for which offenders would face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Amato introduced the legislation in response to the recent increase in anti-Israel, pro-Palestine and even pro-Hamas protests — which have been seen obstructing traffic in many heavily-trafficked areas of New York City, including along the Brooklyn Bridge.

One such instance involved anti-Israel activists blocking the entrances to the Holland Tunnel and three bridges on the East River, where 325 people were arrested and face minimal charges, according to New York Police Department (NYPD) Chief of Patrol John Chell.

“In lieu of summons, many protesters will face misdemeanor charges with a desk appearance ticket,” Chell told ABC News.

Amato’s bill pointed out that blocking traffic could have serious consequences, thus protesters should face a more serious punishment.

“The U.S. Constitution enshrines our right to freely assemble, which is a beautiful cornerstone of our democracy. However, when those who protest directly hinder the ability for pedestrians and motorists to freely move, impacting their ability to arrive at a location, or seek aid, that is unacceptable. The purposeful blocking of bridges, tunnels and road-ways which results in cars being stopped, sick people not being able to get medical attention, or any attempt to prevent innocent people from getting from Point A to Point B is not appropriate or fair – in fact it is flat out dangerous,” the legislation read.

“This bill would create a new section of law that when a person (or persons) deliberately block a bridge, tunnel or public road, they are engaging in an act of domestic terrorism, which shall be deemed a class D felony. While people have the right to protest, they do not have the right to cause fear, panic and put the lives of other people in danger,” the bill continued.

Amato spoke out about the importance of her legislation in a statement to the Rockaway Times.

“This is a matter of public safety,” she told the outlet. “There are procedures for people to organize and protest, and I fully support someone getting a permit and making their voice heard. However, you cannot just unlawfully assemble in an area and hinder someone’s ability to get from Point A to Point B. What if an emergency vehicle needed to get through? This flippant disregard for others is not acceptable and there needs to be accountability for actions.”

Amato has responded to criticism of the bill on social media, where radio host David Lombardo shared a clip of a single protester standing in front of a vehicle and claimed that “This would be a class D felony under the proposal.”

“More like this,” the assemblywoman responded, sharing an image of pro-Palestine activists blocking an entire road leading to the Holland Tunnel.

Amato’s legislation currently only has one co-sponsor, Democrat Assemblyman Sam Berger.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Tom Sullivan is running a second time to replace Amato after she narrowly retained her seat in 2022, receiving just 15 more votes than Sullivan — leading some to speculate that Amato’s legislation is part of an effort to win over more conservative voters ahead of the election.

“[The bill] sounds great, but let’s just hope this isn’t the legislative version of a photo op. Well meaning, but no substance and all for show,” New York City Councilwoman Joann Ariola (R) told the New York Post in a statement.