WSP captain: Sawant's call to shut down highways on May Day ‘irresponsible'

File photo of Seattle City councilwoman Kshama Sawant

With May Day coming up, police and protesters are gearing up for what some are expecting to be the most confrontational event in years and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant's calls to shut down airports and highways is drawing the ire of the Washington State Patrol captain charged with keeping the freeways moving.

Captain Ron Mead says he won’t have any part of that kind of behavior.

“Any rhetoric like that in calling for the shutting down of freeways is reckless and irresponsible,” he said.

Mead oversees all of King County and says he’s outraged a local leader would jeopardize public safety with such an irresponsible and potentially dangerous incitement.

“While we respect people’s right to protest and other acts of civil disobedience, the freeways are simply no place to do that,” he said. “It’s unsafe for both protesters and motorists alike. And we are simply not going to tolerate that unlawful behavior of trying to shut down the interstate or state highway systems.”

Mead says such protests have the potential to block ambulances, police, and firefighters from responding quickly to emergencies.

RELATED: Seattle council affirms city workers get May Day off

He says state troopers have trained with Seattle Police and the Washington State Department of Transportation to ensure protesters get nowhere near on- and off-ramps, or the freeway.

“We work tirelessly,” Mead said. “My troopers work tirelessly every day at ensuring the flow of freeway traffic. We just cannot accept or tolerate unlawful behavior occurring on the freeways.”

But Sawant told KIRO Radio’s Hannah Scott she’s not about to back down.

“There are tens of thousands of potential peaceful activists in Seattle who will fight for their conscience, will fight for social justice, in a peaceful, non-violent but courageous and militant manner.”

We have seen increasing efforts by protesters to take the freeways. Several years ago they were briefly successful, bringing traffic to a halt. But over the past several years, police and state troopers have been able to keep them away and keep traffic moving.

Mead says it’s all hands on deck to make sure that trend continues.

“No trooper, no commissioned member of the Washington State Patrol in King County has Monday off. So, I mean, everybody that is assigned here from me on down will be working Monday.”