Rush hour on Interstate 94 between St. Paul and Minneapolis can be a slow trip under normal circumstances, but Wednesday evening’s commute came to a crawl when a convoy of vehicles driving at a snail’s pace blocked all westbound lanes.
The incident, which the State Patrol described as a protest, included as many as 60 vehicles driving about 10 mph.
Four drivers were cited as of Thursday afternoon and could face charges of impeding traffic. Troopers were working to identify others who were involved, said patrol spokesman Lt. Gordon Shank.
A large group of motorists about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday got on I-94 at Marion Street near the State Capitol in St. Paul and spread out across the four westbound lanes. The group stayed on the freeway until it exited at Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis, Shank said.
“A protest that involved vehicles going about 10 mph that blocked all westbound lanes on I-94 has ended,” the patrol tweeted shortly after the drivers left the freeway.
MnDOT traffic management cameras showed motorists sitting atop vehicles waving both American flags and flags of the Oromo Liberation Front, a political party established in 1973 by Oromo people in Ethiopia.
Last month, a group affiliated with the Oromo blocked a freeway in Minneapolis to decry the slaying of a popular singer in Ethiopia and to protest the government in Addis Ababa.
Shank said troopers did not provide information on which group was behind Wednesday’s traffic disruption.
“It’s an open investigation,” he said, adding that he was unable to comment on what was behind the traffic maneuver.
The minimum speed on a freeway in Minnesota is 40 mph. State law prohibits motorists from driving at slow speeds to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when conditions warrant, such as bad weather or when motorists come upon an actual or potential road hazard.
The state last year added the “slowpoke” law, requiring drivers on roadways with two or more travel lanes going in the same direction to leave the far-left lane open for passing.
“The State Patrol respects the rights of citizens to exercise their constitutional rights in a safe manner,” Shank said. “Blocking the freeway is dangerous any time of day. Vehicles are traveling at freeway speeds which can increase the chances of significant injuries if a crash occurs.”