6 people charged in cease-fire protest that blocked I-5

6 people charged in cease fire protest that blocked I 5
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Six people were charged with misdemeanors Thursday in connection with a Gaza cease-fire protest that blocked I-5 in Seattle for hours.

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Five of the six people were charged in the Jan. 6 incident with second-degree criminal trespass by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. One was charged with disorderly conduct. Those charged include five men and a woman, ranging in age from 29 to 69.

Although the prosecutor’s office typically charges felony cases, the office’s district court unit also handles alleged misdemeanors on state roads. According to the criminal complaints, prosecutors said the five people charged with trespassing “remained unlawfully … upon premises of Washington State Department of Transportation” and all six people illegally obstructed vehicle and pedestrian traffic when they were in the roadway.

The blockade of cars and protesters on the freeway, joined by hundreds more people gathered on nearby overpasses, halted northbound lanes of I-5 and caused a 6-mile backup. Organizers and attendees said they were protesting to draw attention to the increasingly dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza and to decry American support for Israel.

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Seattle police and the Washington State Patrol descended onto I-5 during the protest but did not move in to physically disperse the group or make arrests at the time — a move that later drew ire from some elected officials and community members.

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“Police had to identify people later on based on admissible evidence, which creates a different legal scenario compared to when someone is booked and identified and fingerprinted the same day,” Prosecuting Attorney’s Office spokesperson Casey McNerthney wrote in an email, comparing the investigation to the arrests of 46 people Monday, when a protest blocked the expressway leading to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

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The State Patrol referred charges against 12 people in February for the January protest, but King County prosecutors sent the cases back to the agency, writing that they couldn’t move forward without additional evidence.

According to the probable cause statements, police identified the people through social media posts they made at the protest or videos taken by people live-posting from the area. In one case, a social media account posted a photo of the car blocking the road and a defendant was found to be the registered owner, a detective wrote.

According to the State Patrol documents, the protesters allegedly used a “sleeping dragon” protest tactic, when a series of protesters handcuff themselves together through PVC pipe. That tactic “significantly slowed the efforts of WSP” to clear the road, the detective wrote.

Six other individuals were referred to King County for prosecution, but one case was declined due to what prosecutors said was insufficient evidence. Five other people are still being investigated by State Patrol after prosecutors determined they needed additional evidence to bring charging decisions forward. Those five people could be charged later, McNerthney said.

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The six people charged will be arraigned May 1 in the King County Courthouse.



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