Greater City Providence

I propose 1-3 years in prison for parking on the sidewalk


walkinpvd-iconState Senator Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) has proposed legislation to ban “unlawful interference with traffic.” The Senator says he is introducing this legislation in light “recent demonstrations that have shut down highways in some U.S. communities” that “have the potential to threaten the public welfare.”

Fare enough, there are concerns that recent protests in Boston may have delayed care for a patient travelling in an ambulance to Boston.

Under the Raptakis legislation, a person will be found to have committed the crime of unlawful interference with traffic if he or she “stands, sits, kneels or otherwise loiters on any highway or roadway under such circumstances that the conduct could reasonably be construed as interfering with the lawful movement of traffic” or if that action causes “the interruption, obstruction, distraction or delay of any motorist operating a motor vehicle” on the roadway or highway.

Criminalizing being in the roadway as “reasonably construed” by law-enforcement seems a dangerous precedent to me.

Individuals in violation of the law would be guilty of a felony. A first offense would result in imprisonment of between one and three years, with no eligibility of suspension, deferral or probation for the first 60 days of any sentence. A second violation would increase the prison term to between three and five years, with no eligibility for suspension, deferral or probation for one year. A third violation will result in imprisonment for between five and 10 years, with no eligibility for suspension, deferral or probation for two years.

Under the Raptakis legislation, when the death of any person is a proximate result of any highway interruption or obstruction, the violator would be guilty of “unlawful interference with traffic, resulting in death” and face imprisonment of between three and five years, with no opportunity for suspension, deferral or probation.

So, let’s extend this to parking on the sidewalk, make it a felony with a minimum sentence of 60 days in prison. There should also be an “unlawful interference with the sidewalk, resulting in death” violation.

When one parks one’s vehicle on the sidewalk forcing pedestrians into the street to avoid the vehicle, one has endangered the lives of everyone using that sidewalk, there should be consequences.

“People have to clearly think, you just can’t protest anyway you want to,” Sen. Raptakis said to Channel 12. I’m sure he’d agree that people can’t just park anyway they want too.

Highway protest, which have been happening more often lately, are actually remarkably rare. Parking on the sidewalk, well that happens every day. Which is the greater menace to the ‘public welfare?’

It should also probably be a felony with a possible sentence of 1-3 years in prison if you do not shovel the snow from your sidewalk, right?

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Ambulances get stuck in traffic every single day. Next time one does, let’s grill all the drivers in the jam: Why are you doing blocking the road? Looking for cheaper gas? Carry on. On a booty call? Carry on. Just driving around for the hell of it? Carry on. Demanding justice? You are under arrest.

  • Is Raptakis pals with Putin? A likely next step for Raptakis would be for RI to become more like China. Just gun down protesters. This kind of legislation is so ripe for abuse. Would people be imprisoned if they protested at Kennedy Plaza or on Smith Street in front of the state house?

  • “It should also probably be a felony with a possible sentence of 1-3 years in prison if you do not shovel the snow from your sidewalk, right? ”

    This made me chortle extra hard as I have just received follow up emails from the city about the ten unshoveled sidewalks I reported in February 2014. They passed my complaints onto the Dept of Public Works.

  • There’s already plenty of laws that can be used against someone who blocks a road. Police have had no problem arresting protesters without this law.

    And could you imagine the lawsuits if the state tried to imprison someone for 1 year because they protested in the street? It’s absolutely absurd. If this law passed (I doubt it would), I would definitely join whatever protests there are for it. I’ve always wanted to be represented by the ACLU, and that would be a surefire bet.

  • Blocking i95 for any reason is absolutely unacceptable. This isn’t political, this is public safety. Drivers could have been hurt if they attempted to avoid these protesters. If you intentionally endanger someone’s life, you need to be held accountable. If you don’t like the liability, protest in the park, or on your living room couch (err.. your parent’s couch). This is the type of crap we have to deal with living in a college town. We have plenty of laws, just enforce them… expect more from the Providence Police Dept… they have been crying about resources for long enough. Do. Your Job.

  • Andria, I also got a whole slew of those emails. Too bad there was no point in using the app to report unshoveled sidewalks. Lots of hot air from Taveras apparently. Hopefully, Elorza views it differently.

    As for the proposed law… it’s excessive, but blocking any interstate highway is completely unacceptable, selfish, and doesn’t actually help the cause they’re fighting for. It just pisses people off and puts lives in danger.

  • Actually it is all ready a crime…Disorderly Conduct…in RI.
    This just makes it more specific.

    The key is to ENFORCE IT.

  • Just legally allow drivers to mow over protesters on interstate highways and you’ll see a huge drop in said protesting activities.

    (Kidding, I’m only kidding – just a joke.)

  • KCB, it’s already a crime. There just aren’t draconian punishments for it at the moment.

    It doesn’t look like they distinguish between the highway and a city street. So you could get 1-3 years for blocking Dorrance street during a protest. That is a fascistic law.

  • Pretty hard to get attention these days unless you do it in the only sacred space that truly counts: The Interstate Highway.

  • The bill as written is way too broad so should be unacceptable, indeed as pointed out, no need for a new law.
    That said, I think blocking an interstate is a stupid protest tactic, not only dangerous for protestors and others, it is counterproductive. It shifts the conversation away from police killings to the tactic of blocking a hghway. It is verwhelmingly unpopular so doesn’t build public support for anything good. There were plenty of protests that got plenty of attention where the focus was on the police killings, no need for this stupid tactic.

  • There really aren’t enough laws protecting bicyclists and pedestrians. It really angers me when i see a driver walk away unchanged for hitting and a pedestrian or a bicyclist. Also there’s a lot of favoritism towards the car. I guess there’s so much of it that it is affecting our justice system to favor protecting drivers over pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • Under state law, bicyclists must obey the same rules as any vehicle…so bike riders need to follow the rules, not zip around going through red lights, etc.

    And pedestrians must cross at crosswalks…otherwise they DO NOT have the right of way.

    I find pedestrians, of which I am one at least 50%n of my travel in the city, in particular, often arrogant and in violation of the law.

    So, they suffer the consequences.

  • Steve, they have to follow most of the rules as other vehicles, but I think I read that it’s actually legal for bicyclists to ride on sidewalks, at least in Providence. The same is not true for motorized vehicles.

    And in many states, pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way (you can’t just run them over in the street), even if they are not crossing at a crosswalk (for which they can get fined, but that doesn’t remove the right of way).

  • The RI Homeless Advocacy Project, RI Coalition for the Homeless, Crossroads RI, Homeless Outreach Program, so on, so on, so on.

    Focus on what you do!, and not on fighting a bill/law meant to defend public safety (albeit, in the wrong way). Taking taxpayer money for your cause to help the homeless and then spending it to campaign against legislation — shameful. If you are going to do that, don’t take the money on false pretenses, or take it and fight the government’s terrible policies that are causing the economy to remain in rough shape in RI for so long and has put countless people on the streets.

    From the article: “giving protesters a felony record could affect them their entire lives”. Well…YA! That’s the point. If you choose to break the law, you will be prosecuted. Don’t break the law, it’s pretty simple. Outsiders who look at RI must be completely disgusted… those who follow the rules are the sheeple who finance this cesspool mess and those who don’t follow the rules are not prosecuted and are even rewarded with government hand outs. All the while, the ACLU card carrying, union member, Democrats cheer them on. What a bizarre state.

  • Correct, bikes can operate on the sidewalk.

    But, once on the road, they must follow MV law. it is illegal to cross a street not at a crosswalk and it is a non-criminal fine. But, the right of way in the street IS granted to vehicles. So, if there is an accident, unless the vehicle operator deliberately hits the ped or is violating a law (speeding, DWI etc.), there will be no charges against the operator and should be charges against the ped…commonly called “J-Walking”.

    Bottom, line…obey the law.

  • And pedestrians have the right of way on the sidewalk, cars are not allowed there at all.

    Bottom line, obey the law… or go to prison for 3-years.

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