MYNORTHWEST NEWS

More charges recommended for protesters who shut down I-5 in Seattle

Feb 16, 2024, 7:21 PM | Updated: 8:52 pm

Image: The Washington State Patrol released a statement Friday, Feb. 16 about charges being recomme...

The Washington State Patrol released a statement Friday, Feb. 16 about charges being recommended for more of the protesters who shut down I-5 in Seattle on Jan. 6. The agency also released photos of protesters they are seeking to identify. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol)

(Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol)

More people involved in the pro-Palestinian protest that shut down Interstate 5 (I-5) in Seattle could now face charges.

On Friday, Washington State Patrol (WSP) forwarded their recommendations for seven additional people. That brings the total number to 12 so far, after WSP initially referred charges for five people last week. The misdemeanor counts include criminal trespass, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, and obstruction.

‘Unlawful and dangerous acts’: WSP recommends charges for protesters who shut down I-5

It will be up to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) to make the final decision as WSP cannot charge people. Prosecutors are currently reviewing the evidence forwarded by the state patrol.

Timeline of the I-5 shutdown on Jan. 6

Investigators say all 12 of those so far identified as suspects played an integral role in the demonstration that closed a stretch of northbound Interstate 5 for several hours, beginning around 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 6. At one point, the backup stretched for several miles in the area near Pine Street. Troopers say an estimated 500 people used a dozen vehicles to completely block traffic.

Demonstrators chanted “Free, free Palestine” and “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go.” They called for an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas.

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

Troopers say some of the individuals cut through a WSDOT security fence. Eight people tied their arms together inside pipes in what is called a “Sleeping Dragon” technique. WSP says they did so in an effort to make it more difficult for law enforcement to remove them from the area. It’s not clear if any of those involved in the “Sleeping Dragon” operation are among those facing potential charges.

The protesters dispersed around 6 p.m., following a sudden onset of threatening weather. Troopers didn’t arrest anyone at that time and allowed participants to leave peacefully. Afterwards, troopers searched the abandoned vehicles using bomb-sniffing dogs, before towing them away.

Image: The Washington State Patrol released a statement Friday, Feb. 16 about charges being recommended for the protesters who shut down I-5 in Seattle on Jan. 6. The agency also released photos of protesters they are seeking to identify.

The Washington State Patrol released a statement Friday, Feb. 16 about charges being recommended for more of the protesters who shut down I-5 in Seattle on Jan. 6. The agency also released photos of protesters they are seeking to identify. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol)

WSP investigation continues

WSP faced criticism for its response and the length of time it took to clear the freeway. Chief John R. Batiste defended the department’s actions. He emphasized that troopers focused on ensuring no one got hurt.

“The sophistication and scale of the event presented unique challenges for law enforcement and safety risks to everyone on the freeway,” he said in a statement days after the shutdown. “State and local law enforcement prevented escalation of a situation that could have ended very badly.”

The number of protesters referred for charges could continue to grow, according to WSP spokesperson Chris Loftis. Investigators have compiled a photo gallery of individuals they are still hoping to identify, which can be viewed here.

More from Kate Stone: Expedia to close Seattle offices for 3 days to up security after spy cam reports

Anyone with information on their identities or whereabouts or who might have additional video or photographs that could assist in the investigation is asked to contact WSP at sistips@wsp.wa.gov or Sergeant Chase Van Cleave at (425) 240-4161.

You can read more of Kate Stone’s stories here. Follow Kate on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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