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Is it legal to protest on interstates?

The Winston-Salem Police Department said it received several inquires about the closure which initially began on I-40 near Stratford Road Tuesday evening.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — There have been two Triad protests that spilled onto I-40 since George Floyd's death - one in Greensboro on Sunday and one in Winston-Salem on Tuesday. 

Many of you have asked us if it's legal to block a highway without being arrested. 

According to a North Carolina general statute, you are not allowed to stand, sit or lie on a highway. Breaking this law is a class two misdemeanor. 

No one has been arrested in connection to these Triad interstate protests. 

Highway Patrol said they were only there to assist Winston-Salem police, adding that it's up to individual officers to enforce the law. 

A Winston-Salem city spokesperson said the protesters were given "grace" in order to practice their First Amendment rights. 

Officers chose to use de-escalation techniques rather than make arrests. 

Following protests which took place on I-40 in Winston-Salem Tuesday, the Winston-Salem Police Department released the following statement in a press release Wednesday afternoon. 

"The Winston-Salem Police Department recognizes the right of demonstrators to exercise their First Amendment rights but asks that these demonstrations be carried out in compliance with all applicable laws. Decisions regarding a need to take law enforcement action will be made at each individual demonstration as these are fluid situations and are each unique in nature. The Winston-Salem Police Department is committed to ensuring the safety of all our citizens."

The police department stated that it had received several inquires about the closure due to the protests which initially began on I-40 near Stratford Road. Winston-Salem Police worked with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol to safely close Interstate 40 as a safety precaution for both protesters and drivers on the roads. 

After 40 minutes, protesters were giving orders to leave the interstate, which they did, according to the release. As a result, the police department said that the interstate was able to be reopened without making any arrests. 

"We recognize that the closure caused delays but as a result, neither law enforcement officers, demonstrators, nor the motoring public sustained injuries or suffered any property damage." 

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said the protesters on the highway demonstrated for the amount of time George Floyd was held down by police before he died. 

"It’s a dangerous thing for the protesters and the public. I understand the point they’re trying to make but I encourage folks to be mindful of the danger of that," Joines said.

Greensboro police said they also wanted to protect protesters' First Amendment rights during the demonstrations on Wendover Avenue on Sunday but said the same leeway might not be given in the future. 

Protests have broken out all over the nation, in support of Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the death of George Floyd. 

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