MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of a protester involved in the shutdown of a major interstate.

Jeffrey Berger was the only person who was tried for blocking Interstate 94 during a protest of the police shooting of Philando Castile in July of 2016. Berger said his misdemeanor conviction was unconstitutional.

Close to four dozen people were prosecuted by the city of St. Paul for the freeway protest. But only one of the cases went to trial. Berger refused to take a plea deal.

“I thought going to trial was a better way of talking about the issues to a broader audience,” Berger said.

The 77 year old says he felt protesting was the right thing to do. He was convicted for being a public nuisance. He represented himself in trial, but then teamed up with ACLU Minnesota to appeal the verdict. The court of appeals reversed the conviction.

Jeffrey Berger (credit: CBS)

“I was surprised it was reversed, I’m pleased,” said ACLU Legal Director Teresa Nelson.

The court reasoned that the state did not prove Berger personally made I-94 dangerous that night by following the crowd onto the freeway.

“Rounding people up and subjecting them to a group punishment is not OK under our constitution,” Nelson said.

The court made note that Berger was on the westbound side where protesters were peaceful. Demonstrators in the east lanes threw rocks and debris at police.

RELATED: 21 Officers Injured In I-94 Protests

Berger was also charged with unlawful assembly, but he was acquitted on that charge. He says overturning the conviction is a victory for freedom of speech.

“We need to call attention to the fact that people are being killed, families are being destroyed, people’s lives are being tragically affected, and business can’t go on as usual in this situation,” Berger said.

The court did note that the state could have charged Berger with trespassing or obstructing the legal process.

Berger already served a year of probation and paid a fine that he believes will be refunded.

Kate Raddatz

Comments (3)
  1. Kevin Ol says:

    This clown is guilty of public nuisance, the court got it wrong, he did interfere with passage on I94, he also endangered himself by putting himself out there. Maybe someone should have just run him over and solve the moron problem. I don’t care if these idiots want to stand on the side of a freeway holding signs and getting their message out, but when they infringe on my rights to unfettered travel on public roadways they are a public nuisance.

  2. Gregory Fritz says:

    Lock this welfare leach up…you block traffic you pay…this judge is a moron with an IQ OF ZERO

  3. The people of Minnesota are so grateful to the police for blowing away that punk thug Philando Castile.