Why Sound Transit stopped light rail trains to the airport during protest

By: Graham Johnson

Updated:

Saturday night, 3,000 protesters made their way to Sea-Tac Airport to oppose the detainment of passengers caught up in President Trump's immigration order.

But starting around 6:30 p.m., they couldn't take Sound Transit's Link light rail, because the trains didn't let passengers off at the airport station.

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Sea-Tac Security Director Wendy Reiter told KIRO 7 at that point, police were overwhelmed.

“We asked them to stop the train so we could assess where we're at and how many more mutual aid or partners we needed to help with the situation," Reiter said.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said the agency complies with law enforcement requests to stop service for safety and security.

But after blowback on the train shutdown from protesters and politicians, as of Monday, there's a new protocol.

Rogoff or the head of King County Metro, which operates the trains, needs to be told immediately of a shutdown.

"We would elevate the conversation, as we did Saturday evening, to get a misjudgment turned around," Rogoff said.

Rogoff got the trains moving again after 33 minutes when he learned the protest was peaceful.

"I never want to be in a position to be immediately second-guessing the decision (of) law enforcement, but when we're getting inputs that a protest is peaceful, we can't have transit be used as a tool to suppress participation," Rogoff said.

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