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Seattle Protests Spark Change at Transit Agency

“We want to make sure our transit services are not being used to suppress participation in a peaceful demonstration.”

Governor Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference in Seattle Monday after the travel ban. (AP images/Ted S. Warren)

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On Saturday, 3,000 protestors packed the Seattle-Tacoma Airport in response to President Trump’s immigration ban — and at one point, officials asked that the trains carrying them skip the packed airport in the name of crowd control. That move, and the delay it caused certain protestors (who had to get off more than a mile away and either wait for the bus or walk), led to a policy shakeup announced Monday, the Seattle Times reports.

By 6 p.m. PST, more than a thousand demonstrators had arrived at the airport, where ACLU lawyers were frantically contesting the new president’s executive order, which banned all refugees from entering the country for 120 days, indefinitely banned Syrian refugees and denied entry for 90 days from seven majority Muslim countries.

Around that time, Port of Seattle police called the transit control center to ask that the Sound Transit light rail skip the airport station while additional law enforcement was called in, the Times reports. Between 6:27 p.m. and 7 p.m., three northbound and three southbound trains complied with that request.

Going forward, however, police wanting to close a station during a political protest will have their requests forwarded directly to Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff and King County Metro Transit General Manager Rob Gannon. The officials will have a brief “meeting of the minds,” according to Rogoff, about whether any kind of threat exists. “We just want to make sure our transit services are not being used to suppress participation in a peaceful demonstration,” he said Monday, according to the Times. He emphasized that he does not believe the Port tried to breach First Amendment rights.

The Sea-Tac protest was one of many around the nation this weekend. Demonstrations arose at airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, Washington, Atlanta and Portland, among others. By Sunday night, judges had ruled that a number of green card holders (lawful permanent residents) would be exempted from the ban and allowed to enter the country.

Seattle’s protest followed a news conference held by Washington state officials in the airport. Speaking of the executive order, Governor Jay Inslee said, “It is a train wreck. It can’t stand. We’re drawing the line here at Sea-Tac.”

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Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: seattlelight railprotests

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