Anti-Trumpers Block Highway; Face Class Actions For Damages

Suits Filed Against Those Who Illegally Blocked the George Washington Bridge Provide Precedent for Class Actions Against Anti-Trumpers Who Blocked Arizona Highway, As Do Successful Law Suits Against Other Illegal Protesters
WASHINGTON - March 19, 2016 - PRLog -- Anti-Trump activists who protested his planned appearance in Arizona today by blocking a limited access highway and creating a "traffic nightmare" with "cars backed up for miles" [N.Y. Daily News] could be sued in class action law suits for massive damages modeled after suits filed against those who similarly illegally blocked traffic at the George Washington Bridge, and judgments against other illegal protesters, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

        As Banzhaf had predicted and later helped inspire, two different class action law suits seeking millions in civil damages were brought by persons stuck in the massive traffic jams at NYC's GW Bridge which were illegally caused by former aides to Governor Chris Christie.

        Suing protesters - "Suing the Bastards" - may be the most effective way to help deter illegal protests, says Banzhaf, noting that slap-on-the-wrist criminal fines usually aren't very effective, especially since it sometimes also helps give illegal protesters a soap box to air their grievances in criminal trials.

        But the tide may already be turning, says Banzhaf, citing these examples.

        When other groups see that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been forced to pay $2.55 million to Japanese companies for illegally using acid and smoke bombs to disrupt their whaling, they may think twice before blocking traffic to advance their agenda, says Banzhaf, who has promoted the idea - and the very slogan - of "Suing the Bastards" when the law is broken.

        In another example, a student who illegally chained himself to some construction equipment because he opposed an oil pipeline was forced to pay out big bucks for his criminal conduct.

        As NPR reported it, he was apparently ready to accept a relatively painless conviction for trespass, but not to pay the pipeline company $39,000 in restitution.

        Similarly, eleven protesters who allegedly engaged in illegal activities at the Mall of American are facing restitution claims from the City of Bloomington.

        In these and many similar situations, protesters are often willing to accept a small misdemeanor fine and conviction for a chance to focus attention on their cause, especially if it means they get to have a criminal trial which generates even more publicity for them and for their grievance, argues Banzhaf.

        While most of these actions against criminal protesters have been brought by businesses, there's no reason why similar legal actions cannot also be brought by any person falsely imprisoned on that Arizona highway - as was the case with one of the two GW-Bridge suits.

        Using the threat of legal actions is a far better and more American way of deterring illegal protests than engaging in physical violence against them, as some Trump supporters have apparently already done, says Banzhaf.

        Indeed, says Banzhaf, Trump might even agree to pay for such law suits, just as he has said he will pay for the legal defenses of those charged with illegal violence against protesters, says Banzhaf.

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418  @profbanzhaf

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