Death of I-5 protester sparks end of nighttime freeway protests

WASHINGTON — Washington State Patrol is working to prevent another tragedy after a protester died when a vehicle veered around a barricade on I-5 and plowed into them.

Summer Taylor died after being hit by a car while protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

A second protester suffered critical injuries. The driver is in custody.

This has hit those who were there especially hard, including citizen journalist Omari Salisbury who was at the protest.

Salisbury said the protesters might have been given a false sense of security since troopers blocked off the freeway with barriers.

But orange markings on the highway indicate it was not enough to protect them.

Thirty-two-year-old Diaz Love was live streaming as protesters chanted and danced on I-5 early Saturday morning. But the video was cut short just after 1:30 a.m.

Eyewitnesses said a white Jaguar had gone around a barricade and accelerated toward the group.

Salisbury, of Converge Media, was on the freeway informally interviewing the protesters when he looked up and saw the vehicle barreling toward them.

Salisbury said he couldn’t say if the driver was aiming to hit them.

“Well, I can tell you this,” he said. “I’ve never seen somebody, when they get to a barricade, they accelerate. Most people slow down when you get to a barricade. The car definitely accelerated.”

And he said it was easy to see how badly Taylor was hurt.

“A hundred percent,” Salisbury said. “I mean you could tell immediately that the people who were injured there were injured very seriously.”

Twenty-four-year-old Taylor died some 18 hours later. Love was critically injured but is improving at Harborview Medical Center. Both are non-binary, whose pronouns are “they” and “them.” Both, according to friends, are activists devoted to the cause of racial justice.

I'm alive and stable. In a lot of pain. I cannot believe Summer was murdered. If they thought this murder would make...

Posted by Diaz Love on Sunday, July 5, 2020

Still, walking on I-5 is illegal. But the Washington State Patrol looked the other way, even setting up barriers during the nearly three weeks of nighttime protests on the freeway.

“We’ve worked tirelessly to separate motorists from pedestrians fearing a tragedy like this could very well happen,” insisted WSP Capt. Ron Mead.

But that may have lulled the protesters into a feeling of safety.

“There was absolutely no traffic,” said Salisbury. “And the actual lanes were barricaded. So I think it gave a sense of security.”

Was it a false sense of security?

“Clearly it was,” he said.

Now the WSP said troopers will arrest anyone caught walking on I-5, which had long been their policy.

The suspect, who is in the King County Jail, is expected to make his first court appearance Monday.