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 impounded and nine people were arrested on investigation of disorderly conduct, said Patrol spokesperson Trooper Rick Johnson.
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.
Several 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. The videos were posted by the protesters and by a reporter for The Stranger newspaper, who was inside one of the vehicles. About 20 to 25 minutes later, the group had begun driving again when several State Patrol troopers blocked their way and then approached one of the vehicles.
After troopers told the driver he was under arrest and he and others in the car repeatedly asked “for what,” a trooper said for “obstructing traffic,” according to the livestreamed video. As troopers repeatedly ordered the driver out of the vehicle, he asked “what traffic was I obstructing?” and said “no,” according to the videos.
Troopers then pulled the driver out of the vehicle, during which a brief scuffle ensued and several troopers attempted to arrest the driver, according to the videos. As troopers arrested the driver outside the vehicle, one trooper could be seen with his arm around the driver’s neck. During the arrest, another person appeared to push toward the person being arrested before a trooper pulled her away and she was later arrested, 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 2 miles, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. By 11:35 a.m., all but one lane had been cleared.
During the blockage, a crash in the northbound lanes injured one person and troopers believe someone involved in that crash may have been distracted by the closure, Johnson said, but he could not offer more specifics.
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.”