46 people arrested in pro-Palestinian protest at Sea-Tac Airport

by Caitlyn Freeman and Lauren Girgis at seattletimes.com

Police arrested 46 people accused of blocking the expressway leading to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for three hours Monday afternoon as part of a nationwide day of protest calling for an end to the Israel-Hamas war.

A blockade of cars and dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators — including some who lay across the road with their arms locked together using tubes in a formation called “sleeping dragon” — brought traffic to a standstill at the peak of rush hour. Travelers got out of their cars and walked around the group toward the terminal, pulling luggage behind them.

Organizers said the demonstration was part of a “global call for an economic blockade” on April 15, Tax Day.

“For 6 months we have written our politicians and flooded the streets asking for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza,” a post on Instagram said. “Instead, our government continues to use our tax money to fund the genocide we are witnessing on our screens.”

An email from organizers pointed to Alaska Airlines’ partnership with Boeing, which supplies planes and other military equipment to the Israel Defense Forces.

Sea-Tac spokesperson Perry Cooper said the people arrested were being processed Monday evening at the Des Moines jail, South Correctional Entity, known as SCORE. 

Airport Expressway reopened shortly before 6 p.m., after police led demonstrators away in handcuffs and tow trucks removed vehicles blocking the roads.

The effects on flight operations seemed “pretty minimal,” partly because it wasn’t a busy time of day for flights, Cooper said. He heard of a handful of delays and people who didn’t make their flights, and he said it’s possible some avoided the airport altogether after hearing news of the protest. The airport will know more as it gets reports from the airlines, he added.

The website FlightAware showed Sea-Tac had 117 flight delays and four cancellations on Monday, as of 6:30 p.m.

An Alaska Airlines spokesperson wrote in an email that they were still determining the impact of the disruption.

Cooper said the airport was prepared because they had already planned their response during a “tabletop scenario” a month or so ago, based on similar situations elsewhere.

The airport let police and tow trucks through Air Cargo Road, which isn’t typically open to the public; got cars on the expressway turned around; and directed people to pick up and drop off people at the garage, where 30 minutes of free parking was offered.

“It went pretty smoothly from our standpoint,” he said. “It worked just as planned.”