Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Let's All Agree On This: Stop Blocking Traffic for Protests!

Created: 18 November, 2016
Updated: 21 November, 2022
4 min read

There's a lot that American voters may be divided over, but there's one issue that hopefully we can all get together on and embrace a nonpartisan, obvious, and sane position. Demonstrators who have been blocking traffic on streets and highways as part of your protests: please stop! Stop the madness now.

The vast majority of the 63 million people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election have not been out blocking traffic, which is why this is something that we can hopefully all agree on, but the traffic blocking isn't one or two isolated incidents either. It's been a nationwide problem lately, and it goes back to before the anti-Trump protests over the past two weeks.

Earlier this year, many Black Lives Matter protesters in cities across the country favored blocking traffic as a means of drawing attention to their cause. When anti-Trump protests swept over the nation this month, the protesters used the same unsafe tactic in cities all over America.

In Miami, several hundred protesters deliberately obstructed traffic on Interstate Highway I-95. All the way across the country in Portland, Oregon, protestors blocked I-5 and I-84, disrupting the plans of thousands of people that night:

"One of them was Lea Ann Easton, on her way back to the office after a long business trip.'I thought, why are people protesting on I-5? It’s dangerous, it’s stupid, it seems counterproductive. They shouldn’t be doing that. There are other ways to protest!' she said.Easton is familiar with protests and social justice. She’s a lawyer who helped make gay marriage legal in Oregon.But Wednesday night she was just another tired commuter on the way home."

Halfway between Oregon and Florida, protesters in Iowa City flooded onto I-80 last Friday in the middle of rush hour, bringing traffic to a standstill and backing up the highway for miles. This week, protesters in Washington DC set up a roadblock across I-395.

Protesters also blocked traffic in New York City near Trump Tower; in Boulder, Colorado in downtown intersections and on US Highway 36; on Highway I-94 in Minneapolis; on I-25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and on major thoroughfares in Austin, Texas, among other cities.

There have been numerous reports of anti-Trump protesters growing violent as well, such as the protest in Indianapolis where demonstrators who were blocking traffic began throwing rocks at police officers, and the protest in Portland that police termed a riot because local businesses downtown were getting their windows smashed.

The overt acts of violence are obviously unwelcome and unproductive. It's just blind rage that aimlessly hurts bystanders without advancing any kind of coherent political cause. The traffic-blocking has to stop, too.

Community organizers and activists who stir up a protest and aim it toward a major automotive thoroughfare: it's extremely unsafe. You're not taking care of your own people when you allow this to happen.

In August, a man was hit by a car in Ferguson, Missouri, while blocking traffic as part of a Black Lives Matter protest. Last week another man was struck when a large group of protesters blocked traffic in Oakland, California.

Blocking traffic can also be unsafe for the drivers and passengers whose vehicles are being obstructed. Interstate highways, which have been major targets of this protesting tactic, are important for speedy emergency response and people trying to get to the hospital with urgent sickness or injuries.

When Black Lives Matter protesters blocked an I-40 bridge in Memphis this July, they trapped the parents of a sick baby who were rushing their child to the hospital for urgent medical care. An ambulance had to drive the wrong way up the Interstate escorted by police, then drive the child 25 minutes out of the way to get back to the hospital.

Even when traffic obstruction doesn't have dangerous or deadly results, it is so aimlessly destructive of people's time and interests, so incredibly inconsiderate of other people who might even be on the same side of a political issue as the protesters.

The road is not an appropriate place to protest elections and policies. People don't drive on roads for a political purpose. When most of these protests happened, most of the people on the road were just trying to get home and be with their loved ones.

Photo Credit: Cory Seamer / Shutterstock.com