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Activists want city attorney to go after big oil companies, others instead of protesters

Local activists from half a dozen organizations gathered at the city hall on Tuesday with a message for the city attorney: prosecute big oil companies instead of protesters. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - Local activists from half a dozen organizations gathered at the city hall on Tuesday with a message for the city attorney: prosecute big oil companies instead of protesters.

Protesters claim their demonstrations are an act of civil disobedience, advocating for immigration rights, environmental protections and more.

“We don’t participate in protests to inconvenience people, we don’t participate in these protestsfor the sake of being disruptive,” said Alec Connon who is with 350 Seattle.

But it’s the way their protesting that is catching the attention of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who is prosecuting demonstrators who are responsible for shutting down streets and blocking emergency responders.

In May protesters put up four large tents in the middle of 2nd Avenue, which shutting down the roadway for seven hours all to fight big oil. Fifteen people were arrested and charged.

Then in June demonstrators linked arms with PVC pipes protesting ICE. The demonstration shutdown 2nd Ave and Madison Street for almost two hours. The 9 people were arrested during that protest and will soon be charged.

Holmes recently wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times saying if activists protested recklessly they would be prosecuted.

On Tuesday, activists called on the city attorney to drop the criminal charges filed against demonstrators and instead focus energy on prosecuting the oil industry and the Trump Administration.

“We participate in theses protests because we recognize the inconvenience of climate change, families torn apart that are infinitely greater than the inconvenience of being stuck in traffic for a few minutes,” said Connon.

Holmes released a statement to KOMO News:

“I wrote the Seattle Times piece to explain my reasoning for pressing charges in these unpermitted road closure protests in that the decision could easily be mispercieved. It was never about suppressing anyone’s voice.

"As I informed the Mayor and City Council in May, my office is in the midst of researching the fossil fuel industry’s climate impact on Seattle to inform potential forthcoming litigation. We’re working with the Keller Rohrback law firm on this effort, and they’re operating on a contingency fee basis (they don’t get paid unless we secure settlement or victory in the courtroom). If/when the time comes that we have a viable legal strategy to move forward, you can expect that I’ll be submitting an op-ed that highlights the very real threat climate change poses to our planet.

"If anyone thinks I haven’t been using my platform to speak out against the Trump Administration’s draconian immigration actions and to defend immigrant rights, you may not have been paying attention.”

Cynthia Linet, who lives in Capitol Hill, is an environmental activist who was arrested back in May. She came to city hall with a message for Holmes.

“How dare he consider us as obstructionists, we are not criminals, I am not a criminal,” said Linet.

But the 80-year-old is now facing criminal charges for being part of a protest that blocked a Seattle Street for hours on end. Linet said she hopes the case will go to trial. She believes it will help shine a light on her cause to end climate change.

Charges are still forth coming on several arrests from May.

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