SACRAMENTO– The Calistoga pedestrian overpass: It runs between Sacramento and Roseville over Interstate 80. Thousands of cars rush by here every hour. If you had a message you wanted to get out to people, this might be a very effective place to show it.
But one group looking to do just that has touched off a debate over free speech and freeway safety.
Debra DesRosiers and her friends are getting their message out.
“Isn’t it great? I get goosebumps from the honks,” DesRosiers said.
And if there’s any problem, it may be that they’re too effective.
“It’s funny when the passenger is reaching over their driver to honk the horn,” DeRosiers said.
But in a video made by one of DesRosiers’ group on Oct. 20, a CHP officer has a different take on that.
“So I need you guys to get off the overpass,” the officer says.
The group has sent a letter to CHP, demanding an apology and asking for assurances that officers won’t try to curb their free speech rights again.
The California Highway Patrol has told us they won’t hesitate to kick the demonstrators off the overpass again if officers think the demonstrators are causing a traffic hazard.
“All the vehicles that are driving by you at 75 miles an hour, looking up at you, reading your signs and honking their horns? They’re not paying attention to traffic,” the CHP officer said in the Oct. 20 video.
Does DesRosiers and her group feel like what they are doing is dangerous?
“I think it’s safe. I mean, we’re no more of a distraction then a street sign is,” DesRosiers said.
And, she points out, the group has staged dozens of demonstrations without a single accident.