By Dave Orrick

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton Saturday vetoed a Republican-backed plan to increase penalties for protesters who clog up traffic.

Dayton, a Democrat, has said he supported the idea of stiffer penalties for protesters who shut down airports or highways, as one group of protestors did on Interstate 94 in St. Paul following the shooting of Philando Castile in July 2016.

But the Republican-led plan went too far, Dayton said in a veto letter, by using wording that was "unacceptably vague" and could have applied to any protest that delayed a bus route.

That criticism was shared almost universally by Democrats, and House and Senate floor debates on the bill featured some of the most impassioned speeches of the legislative session, with critics raising notions like free speech, tenets of Democracy and the civil rights movement.

Republicans, who hold majorities in both the House and Senate, said stiffer penalties are needed because the level of protest that disrupts transportation causes a higher level of harm to society than a boisterous demonstration.

Blocking traffic is already against the law. The proposal, known as the "anti-protest bill," would have raised the penalty from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor.

(c)2018 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)