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Thursday, September 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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9 people arrested during protest where drivers blocked lanes of I-5 Friday morning

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 4, 2020

By Heidi Groover Seattle Times

Washington State Patrol troopers arrested nine people participating in a protest in which vehicles blocked traffic on Interstate 5 through Seattle on Friday morning, according to videos and accounts from the scene and the State Patrol.

Nine vehicles were being impounded, patrol spokesperson Trooper Rick Johnson wrote on Twitter at about 11:15 a.m. Reached by phone, Johnson said he didn’t know details of the reasons for each arrest, other than that the group was illegally blocking the freeway, and he didn’t know whether the drivers would be cited and released or booked into jail.

The protest group, known as the Morning March, marches nearly every weekday. Recently, they have stopped traffic on the Ballard Bridge and on Highway 99 in Seattle. They have called on Mayor Jenny Durkan to resign and for the city to cut funding to Seattle police and redirect that money to Black organizations, as well as to drop charges against protesters and close the juvenile detention center.

Videos from the scene showed the group, which had been driving south over the Ship Canal Bridge, stop and get out of their vehicles, chant and speak over a megaphone. About 20 to 25 minutes later, the group had begun driving again when several State Patrol troopers blocked their way. Troopers approached one of the vehicles and told the driver he was under arrest and to step out, and when he refused, they pulled him out of the vehicle, according to a live-streamed video filmed by a protester and a video posted by a journalist for The Stranger newspaper, who was inside the vehicle.

When another passenger from the vehicle approached the troopers during the arrest, one appeared to pull her away by the arm, and she was later arrested as well, according to the videos.

The protest and arrests blocked all southbound lanes of the Ship Canal Bridge starting at about 10:30 a.m., creating a backup of about two miles, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. By 11:35 a.m., all but one lane had been cleared.

Protesters accused troopers of worsening the traffic. “You are causing a bigger backup than we ever would have,” an organizer said, according to the video.

Earlier this summer, the State Patrol repeatedly closed I-5 to vehicle traffic during demonstrations on the freeway. In early July, a driver entered the freeway despite the closure and hit a group of protesters, killing 24-year-old Summer Taylor. After that, the agency said it would no longer allow protests on the freeway.

Johnson said he couldn’t comment on the change in strategy. “The backup [Friday morning] I’m sure was horrific for people sitting in that,” he said. “We just needed to obviously let them know this is not legal, first of all. That is why we took the action we took today.”

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