(The Center Square) – The Washington State Patrol recommended charges for five pro-Palestinian protesters who blocked Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle more than a month ago.
The protest occurred on Jan. 6 and caused a six-mile traffic backup on the highway for about five hours. Videos on social media shows hundreds of protestors on the highway, chanting phrases such as “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go!”
Three males and two females are being referred by the department for charges, including second degree criminal trespass, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, and obstruction. The King County Prosecutor’s Office will make the final determination if criminal charges will be filed.
According to WSP, two other individuals remain under investigation for possible referrals in the near future.
WSP Chief John Batiste said that there can be no doubt that the department respects and protects the rights of free speech and assembly, but that the I-5 protest has nothing to do with free speech and assembly rights.
“This is about holding people accountable for unlawful and dangerous acts that put the traveling public, our first responders, and yes, the protestors themselves, in danger,” Batiste said in a statement. “Stepping foot on a freeway to highlight your own individual cause is a self-centered act that is dangerous, foolhardy, disruptive, and most assuredly illegal.”
Batiste added that WSP will “exhaust all possible investigatory efforts” to deter people from engaging in similarly dangerous behavior in the future.
The I-5 protest was one of a series of similar gatherings held in the Puget Sound region demanding a permanent ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, including rallies in downtown Seattle, as well as an attempt to block the departure of a merchant vessel from the Port of Tacoma suspected of carrying weapons and military equipment to the Middle East.