Anti-vaccine demonstrators attempting to block highways as part of nationwide protests will face felony charges, according to the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office.
Prosecutor Joe Deters said his office has learned of protesters' plans to shut down highways across the country on Monday morning in a denouncement of mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
"I want to be perfectly clear," Deters said in a release. "Anyone who attempts to shut down the highways in Hamilton County will be removed from their vehicles, charged with felony Disrupting Public Services, and they will go to jail."
Posts have surfaced on social media platforms, specifically TikTok and Facebook, urging truckers and other drivers to participate in the "Patriot Shutdown" protests by blocking traffic at specific highway mile markers, including three Hamilton County locations, Amy Clausing, a spokesperson for the prosecutor's office, told The Enquirer.
"To those who claim to be supportive of law enforcement - law enforcement is not with you. This would pose a serious danger for our first responders and the community at large," Deters said. "I have always been supportive of a citizen’s First Amendment right to protest. But, this is not lawful and it is reckless. It will not be tolerated."
The Ohio State Highway Patrol said in a statement that it's "aware and monitoring the situation closely to ensure roadways are safe to travel."
Officials with the patrol declined to comment further citing security concerns.
Vaccine mandates have been announced at hospitals, universities and public schools across the region, with employees and college students required to be fully vaccinate in the coming weeks and months.
The city of Cincinnati asked its workers to provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccine status by Tuesday, though employees who refused didn't face disciplinary action. City officials earlier this week pushed back a mandatory testing requirement by nearly a month.
And Cincinnati Public Schools is also taking up the issue of whether to implement a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students.
Cincinnati-based consumer products giant Procter & Gamble recently became the first major employer in the region, outside government or health care, to announce a vaccine policy.
More are expected to follow suit in response to President Joe Biden's plan to require businesses with over 100 employees to ensure workers are vaccinated or tested weekly.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans to issue an emergency temporary standard to enact the requirement, which will impact over 80 million private sector employees, according to the White House.
Anti-vaccine and mask mandate protests have been held recently in the area. Last month, dozens of protesters gathered outside the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Edgewood, Kentucky to protest the health system's vaccine mandate.
A federal judge on Friday ruled the hospital group can move forward with its COVID-19 vaccine requirement, after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of dozens of St. Elizabeth's employees.