Sound Transit leadership announced a new policy, Monday, in response to service disruptions during Saturday’s protests at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Any disruptions must now be reviewed by senior leadership.
The decision came on the heels of public outcry during an approximately 30-minute service disruption that left riders headed for SeaTac/Airport Station out in the cold. Many shared concerns on Twitter about suppression of free speech and peaceful protest. One group of riders, dropped off at Tukwila International Boulevard Station, reportedly marched the final two-miles to join the protest.
Ultimately three northbound and three southbound trains skipped SeaTac/Airport Station between between approximately 6:30pm and 7pm before Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff ordered service to continue.
The disruption came at the request of Port of Seattle police “due to safety and security concerns,” according to a press release by Sound Transit.
The new protocol, developed by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Sound Transit Chair and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, will require “CEO and/or general manager review of any disruption associated with protest activity to determine if continuing to provide transit service represents a genuine threat to the public’s safety and security.” It will apply to both Sound Transit and King County Metro. Metro operates light rail and bus service in King County under contract with Sound Transit.
“Transit should always be available for those who want to participate in our democracy,” said Executive Constantine. “Under the new protocol, any request by law enforcement to disrupt rail or bus service, except for an immediate and serious threat, will be quickly reviewed by senior leadership at both Sound Transit and King County Metro. This will help protect both public safety and the constitutional right to peacefully assemble.”
Saturday’s protests were in response to President Trump’s recent travel ban executive order, which indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspended entry for refugees from all other countries for 120 days, and denied entry to anyone with citizenship from one of seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, and Yemen) for 90 days. Demonstrators at SeaTac International Airport were part of a nation-wide response, spanning from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York. Protests continued on Sunday with thousands rallying in Westlake Center and marching through Downtown.
The Urbanist Board of Directors denounced President Trump’s travel ban on Saturday and called for Sound Transit to fully explain their decision to disrupt service.