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King County Sheriff: ‘We would make arrests’ if protesters blocked streets

(KIRO 7 image)
LISTEN: Sheriff Johanknecht: 'We would make arrests' if protesters blocked streets

Seattle has drawn sharp criticism after seven protesters blocked downtown traffic without any police intervention last Friday.

“We have a lot of two-lane roads out there so it will create a backup pretty quickly,” King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht told KTTH’s Todd Herman. “As a matter of fact, on that day I worked remotely. My office is down there and there was no way I was going to get to it; and some other staff having two to three hour commutes that day.”

RELATED: Open letter to City of Seattle after traffic-blocking protest

Seattle police made no arrests on March 2. The protesters locked arms at Fourth Avenue and James Street, blocking traffic. It created a 2.5-mile backup through the city. The backups extended onto I-5.

“Each agency decides how to handle things differently,” she said. “In my jurisdiction if the roadway is blocked, we would make arrests. But we’d work with protesters. Often times, it’s them wanting to be arrested. There’s a big danger, a big public safety issue, I think, in those situations.

Sheriff Johanknecht is not in charge of Seattle police, however.

Seattle protesters

The protesters oppose a proposed $210 million King County juvenile justice center. They sat down at Fourth Avenue and James Street around 8 a.m. They later moved to Fifth Avenue and Stewart Street.

One driver drove her car through the protest. Protesters jumped on her hood. Another woman was forced to park at the bottom of First Hill and limp up to Harborview Medical Center. She was getting foot surgery that day.

KTTH’s Todd Herman said he would have performed a citizen’s arrest. It depends how it’s done, but Sheriff Johanknecht said that deputies often encounter a citizen’s arrests.

“We have people witness stuff all the time and stand by,” she said. “You’ve heard of times when DUIs are kept from driving their cars out of parking lots and so forth; I consider those citizens arrests and people stand by and assist us.”

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