Ferguson protesters nationwide target roads for demonstrations

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Protests continue nationwide in response to a grand jury’s decision not to charge police officer Darren Wilson in connection with the August shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Reports from across the nation indicate that protesters within the St. Louis metropolitan area, and demonstrators engaging in solidarity marches around the country, are staging events in high-traffic areas.

For at least 20 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, protestors shut down Interstate 44 in St. Louis, near the Martin Luther King Jr. bridge, according to Greg Horn, a district engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s St. Louis office.

“The police went out there and told (the protestors) to leave and they left,” he said.

Horn also said that multiple protests were underway on city streets, but that those events were mainly “just short closures.”

Protests and demonstrations occurred in at least a dozen other major cities on Tuesday, roughly 24 hours after a grand jury returned no indictment against Wilson in connection with Brown’s death. Protests and rioting in the St. Louis area turned violent on Monday night, with at least a dozen businesses set ablaze, 61 people arrested, and two police cars destroyed. Many protests are being staged in the middle of streets, which is where the initial confrontation between Wilson and Brown occurred.

A 16-year-old girl in Minneapolis was injured Tuesday after being struck by a passenger vehicle that ran through an intersection in Minneapolis where a demonstration was underway, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The girl was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries. No charges have been filed against the driver.

At least 10 people in New York City were arrested Tuesday night after thousands of protestors attempted to shut down access to the Manhattan and Willamsburg Bridges, as well as the Holland and Lincoln tunnels and the FDR and West Side Highways in Manhattan, according to The New York Times.

Other cities include Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Portland, Albuquerque and Oakland. The BBC reports that the demonstrations were largely peaceful, except for Oakland where rioting reportedly broke out.

In Ferguson, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered additional National Guardsmen to the city to provide security at the Ferguson Police Department, which will allow additional law enforcement officers to protect the public.

Truckers and other motorists attempting to travel into, out of or around St. Louis and its suburbs should pay attention to news reports and the Missouri Department of Transportation’s travel advisories in wake of sometimes violent protests in and around the town of Ferguson, officials have said.

Horn said MoDOT will be updating its online road conditions map on the agency’s website to include real-time information about road closures, accidents and other travel information. A mobile app is also available for download. The agency also maintains a toll-free number, 888-275-6636, which will provide the same information. 

While the transportation office website and hotline can provide up-to-date road closures, detours and delays on major travel routes, it won’t provide drivers with information about secondary roads and city streets.

He also said in the event of another group of protesters shutting down a state road or major interstate, MoDOT will issue travel alerts across the state’s electronic highway sign system.

Besides physical safety hazards, working in an area under a state of emergency declaration could have serious financial consequences for drivers, as many insurance policies carry exemptions for operating the vehicle in such conditions.

Deborah Winkler, OOIDA Truck Insurance Department manager, says that while individual policies may vary, most insurance plans will have “some kind of exclusion for riots or civil unrest.”

Those exclusions can be for loss or damage caused by strikers, locked-out workmen, persons taking part in labor disturbances, riots or civil commotions. Winkler said truckers are sometimes left with the difficult choice of doing a job that could put them in harm’s way, or declining to take a job altogether.

Related articles:
Truckers in, near Ferguson should use discretion, technology to stay safe
State of emergency in Ferguson highlights challenges for truckers

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