I have a great sympathy with what these two gentlemen did, but I do disagree with their action, obviously, because it broke the law.
Yet because “this was an act of civil disobedience,” Sutter said, “this should be treated as a civil infraction.” According to PRI’s quote of one of the protesters, the protesters were required only to “pay $2,000 restitution to the Somerset police and the state police for their overtime charges essentially.”
And it seems pretty clear that Sutter wasn’t just announcing a general policy that “civil disobedience” (for instance, when people blockade abortion clinics out of moral conviction) should generally “be treated as a civil infraction” even when it may constitute a crime. Sutter was acting as he did because he agreed with the protesters’ policy views, and the protesters’ sense that their policy positions were important and urgent.
So the message is clear: If you are engaging in legal behavior that Bristol County D.A. Sam Sutter sufficiently dislikes, and people are criminally interfering with this behavior, don’t expect the criminal law to protect you by deterring such misbehavior; and if you are committing a crime to express a viewpoint that D.A. Sutter likes, you could be free of criminal prosecution. Next stop — no criminal prosecution of people who blockade fur shops? Gun stores? Any other business that the D.A. believes isn’t worthy of full legal protection?