U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis, R-NC, and Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, announced on Monday that they recently introduced legislation that would make it a federal crime to purposely obstruct, delay, or affect commerce by blocking a public road or highway.

The Safe and Open Streets Act is in direct response to pro-Palestine protestors who have intentionally blocked roads and highways across the country, including in North Carolina.

The announcement came on the same day that hundreds of pro-Palestinian protestors blocked the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges and the Holland Tunnel in New York City.

Demonstrators from the “Shut it Down for Palestine” rally blocked the bridges and tunnel around 10 am, shutting them down for more than an hour. At least 339 people were arrested. 

One person told The New York Post that penalties for blocking traffic should be enforced so people wouldn’t be so eager to protest.

During rush hour on Nov. 2, protestors blocked the Durham Freeway (NC 147), causing many commuters to add an hour or more to their commute time. The same action occurred on Nov. 9 after pro-Palestinian protestors shut down a section of Fayetteville Street, the main artery that runs through downtown Raleigh. No arrests were made in either incident. 

Protestors also blocked airport access roads in NYC and Los Angeles late last month on one of the year’s busiest travel days. 

The Safe and Open Streets Act would penalize lawbreakers through fines or up to five years of imprisonment.

“The emerging tactic of radical protestors blocking roads and stopping commerce is not only obnoxious to innocent commuters, but it’s also dangerous and will eventually get people killed,” Tillis said in a press release. “It needs to be a crime throughout the country. I’m proud to introduce the Safe and Open Streets Act so radical activists who resort to these reckless and dangerous tactics are held accountable under the full weight of the law for endangering public safety.”

“These activists are not only intentionally creating a dangerous situation for themselves, but perhaps for a citizen who is awaiting an ambulance or a hard worker who will lose their job for being late,” said Blackburn. “The Safe and Open Streets Act is critical to stopping this reckless behavior, particularly by Hamas sympathizers, in our U.S. cities.”

The legislation also comes as the 2024 election cycle gears up, beginning with the 2024 Iowa Caucus on Jan. 15. The war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas is likely to be a topic of discussion there and throughout the year as the war continues, as well other important issues like the economy.