An elderly man was assaulted in an I-90 tunnel on Wednesday after he approached Black Lives Matter protestors for blocking all lanes of traffic.
Demonstrators had illegally parked their cars at the end of an I-90 tunnel around 10:30 that morning. They stretched themselves across the freeway lanes, trapping hundreds of drivers inside the tunnel for around 20 minutes. The protestors played the drums, chanted in the echoing chambers of the tunnel, holding signs that read “Indigenous Lives Matter,” “If you’re upset imagine being black,” “powa 2 da people”, and “defund SPD”.
Washington State Patrol (WSP) was called and they sent several troopers to respond and arrest the demonstrators for disorderly conduct.
Before state troopers arrived, one elderly man exited his vehicle and approached the Black Lives Matter protestors, obviously agitated about the entire event. Video shows him yelling at the protestors, attempting to clear the path for his car to leave the tunnel.
The elderly man came close to the demonstrators, but initially did not touch them. Then, one demonstrator put himself directly in the lane of traffic the man was clearing. The man began pushing the demonstrator away, but other demonstrators quickly surrounded him. That’s when one demonstrator rushed in from the man’s right side, wrapped his arm around the man’s neck, and took him to the ground.
According to Preston Phillips, a journalist for KOMO 4 ABC News, the man was telling protestors that he was trying to get to the hospital for an important procedure.
When WSP troopers arrived, the protestors dispersed and no arrests were made. WSP is looking for witnesses to identify the man who assaulted the driver. Witnesses have already provided license plate numbers for the cars that were blocking the tunnel.
Blocking traffic has been a common tactic used by Seattle demonstrators over the summer. Nine people were arrested earlier this month for blocking I-5 traffic.
Only two months ago, the tactic turned deadly. During an early July protest, a driver struck two protestors, killing one of them. WSP quickly announced that protests would no longer be allowed on I-5 due to its highly dangerous nature for both drivers and protestors.
“We’re there to support their First Amendment to march and say what you need to say, but on the freeway with cars it’s just not a good thing,” Trooper Rick Johnson told KIRO Radio in July.
According to the Seattle Times, protestors had marched into traffic 19 consecutive nights prior to the incident.
WSP released a statement on Wednesday’s demonstration, reminding the public that blocking roadways is a serious offense and can be a matter of life or death:
“The Washington State Patrol would also like to stress that illegally blocking the road has consequences that affect the ability of ambulances trying to get to the hospital and all the other first responders trying to get to emergency calls. Ultimately this could mean life or death.”