The argument is common.
By standing in the road, blocking up traffic, protesters -- be they Black Lives Matter at the airport, the Women's March in St. Paul, or against Donald Trump's Muslim ban in Minneapolis -- aren't only inconveniencing commuters. They're putting lives in jeopardy.
Think of the emergency vehicles that can't get through, they say. Here's Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater, explaining to City Pages why she'd entered a bill for harsher penalties against protesters arrested on a freeway: "This isn't just a matter of inconvenience. It's a public safety issue. Ambulances can't get through."
This Tuesday evening, that argument was put to the test during a moment at the downtown Minneapolis protest against Donald Trump's ban on Muslim immigration and travel from seven countries, including Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
You'll be relieved to learn that people concerned about the safe passage of faraway refugees also support saving the life of the guy down the block.
Somewhere between 5,000 (police estimate) and 15,000 (protest organizer estimate) people jammed the streets of the city, chanting support for immigrants and refugees, hearing speeches from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, among others. After gathering outside the federal courthouse, the crowd started marching.
By then, Adam Iverson was already on the move, trying to get a better shot.
Iverson, a bartender and amateur photographer, had been shooting throughout the protest, and around 5:30 p.m. ducked through a door and ran up the stairs to the skyway, noticing a group of paramedics arriving near Nicollet Mall, but giving them no further thought.
Within minutes, Iverson heard a fire truck's familiar siren coming from behind him, and behind the crowd. His elevated vantage point gave a perfect view of what happened next.
"It almost looked like water," Iverson said. "They parted really quickly. Everyone moved out of the way, and then everybody almost immediately filled back in behind it."
Iverson estimates the truck was going around 20 miles an hour, and did not notice it slowing down as it passed through the crowd. If anything, whoever was waiting for that truck -- which joined the responding ambulance in the near distance of Iverson's frame -- was lucky downtown was full of protesters, and not rush-hour commuters.
"Somebody mentioned... that this was probably a lot faster than if the truck was trying to get through automobile traffic," he says. "It wasn’t impeded in any way by the crowd."
Keep these handy for the next time someone says it's not that they oppose the protesters, they're just worried public safety.
Now that that's out of the way, maybe we can talk about the issues inspiring people to protest?