WSP defends actions during protesters’ 5-hour takeover of I-5

Jan 9, 2024, 2:57 PM

wsp charges protest I-5...

Protesters block a portion of Interstate 5 in Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. (Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

(Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is firing back at critics after it took five hours to clear Interstate 5 (I-5) of protesters last weekend.

I have heard this for days now, and I have been thinking it too. Why did it take the WSP so long to clear the freeway when protesters shut down I-5 in Seattle on Saturday?

There was an unsubstantiated rumor that a takeover protest would be happening, and the WSP mobilized it ramp response/closure plan. But the tactics used by the protesters caught the WSP off guard, as they used cars as a blockade and flooded the lanes with people through cuts in the freeway fencing.

“Protesters came highly coordinated, highly mobilized, and highly motivated in large numbers,” the WSP’s Chris Loftis said. “They use the ‘Sleeping Dragon’ device, which we have seen in other protests, but we’ve not seen on the highways before.”

Previous coverage: Protesters blocked I-5 in downtown Seattle at Pine Street

For those who don’t know the “Sleeping Dragon” technique, it’s where people tie their arms together inside pipes, which makes it incredibly difficult to remove them.  Other protesters used their cars to block the freeway and then abandoned them, and there were more than 500 people involved.

The plan was to arrest those in the “Sleeping Dragon” and take them to the King County Jail. The rest were going to be transported to a nearby Seattle Police Department precinct.

But a mass arrest of this scale doesn’t happen quickly. And Loftis said there is only one goal in situations like this.

“For those people who are saying ‘Gosh this took too long,’ we did it and we did it safely,” Loftis said.  “We’re always going to do it, and we’re always going to do it safely.”

And troopers are not going to just start cracking heads like we saw in the old days.

“We just aren’t going to go in and act recklessly and exacerbate a problem by not thinking through the possible ramifications,” Loftis said.

‘Illegal’ and ‘dangerous’: No support from WSP

That said, the WSP considers these actions illegal and dangerous.

“We think this is very wrong,” Loftis said. “This is illegal.  This is dangerous.  This is just stupid.  This is just a stupid thing to do.”

And Loftis said the agency doesn’t just allow protesters to do what they want.

“Even though those are constitutionally protected rights, there are boundaries to those rights, and illegal and dangerous behavior is the boundary to those rights,” Loftis said. “You lose that right when you do something that’s going to harm others.”

Opinion from Jason Rantz: WSP gave I-5 Seattle to activists for protest

What about some reports that Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell or Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told the agency to stand down?

“It is not in fact. It is not truth,” Loftis said. “It is not policy. It is not practice. It is noise.”

Loftis said the WSP doesn’t care about your politics.

“We don’t care about your cause,” he said.  “We don’t care if it’s from the right or from the left.  We don’t care how passionate you are. We care about your safety. We care about the traveling public’s safety.  We care about our law enforcement first responder safety.”  The WSP cares about the protesters’ safety too.

And while there were no arrests on Saturday, Loftis said arrests and charges could be coming for those involved. Investigators say they have plenty of evidence, and they putting it together.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints here. You can also follow Chris on X, formerly known as Twitter. Head here to follow KIRO Newsradio Traffic’s profile on X, formerly known as Twitter.


Image: The Easy Fire burns in the North Cascades on Thursday, July 18, 2024....

Bill Kaczaraba

North Cascades Highway near Diablo Lake reopens after wildfire caused closure

A wildfire has forced the closure of State Route 20/the North Cascades Highway west between mileposts 148 and 158.

4 days ago

Image: Red and white reflective stripes are being added to Washington State Department of Transport...

Chris Sullivan

Going green isn’t what you think when it comes to WSDOT safety

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is tired of people plowing into trucks and is taking a green approach.

4 days ago

Photo: Traffic on I-5....

Micki Gamez

Prepare for traffic: Sound Transit to close lane of I-5 south

Washington has two seasons: winter and construction. Sound Transit is going to close one lane on I-5 south.

5 days ago

ballard closures...

Chris Sullivan

Sullivan: Closures are clogging Ballard, and will be for next two months

Getting through Ballard along 15th Avenue Northwest can be hard enough as it is, and that was before the closures.

7 days ago

I-405 multi-car collision...

Frank Sumrall

Multiple lanes on I-405 North closed near Bellevue due to multi-car collision

Multiple lanes on Interstate 405 (I-405) heading north are closed near Coal Creek Parkway after a multi-car collision.

7 days ago

Photo: The Washington State Patrol is cracking down on people who cut in ferry lines....

James Lynch

Don’t be that person: State troopers fine ferry line cutters $145

Have you ever been frustrated by a driver who cut in line at a ferry terminal? Now the Washington State Patrol is cracking down.

7 days ago

WSP defends actions during protesters’ 5-hour takeover of I-5