Vancouver defense attorney files lawsuit against Washington State Patrol over June I-5 closure for protest


The suit alleges the agency facilitated an illegal mass gathering

VANCOUVER — D. Angus Lee, a Vancouver Criminal defense and civil rights attorney, filed a lawsuit against Washington State Patrol (WSP) for what he alleges was the facilitation of a mass gathering on June 19, during a Black Lives Matter protest that shutdown Interstate 5.

Hundreds of protestors marched onto Interstate 5 from Esther Short Park on June 19. WSP and WSDOT closed the freeway as a result. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Hundreds of protestors marched onto Interstate 5 from Esther Short Park on June 19. WSP and WSDOT closed the freeway as a result. Photo by Jacob Granneman
D. Angus Lee has filed a suit against the Washington State Patrol
D. Angus Lee has filed a suit against the Washington State Patrol. Click to view PDF.

The suit claims that by facilitating the closure of the federal freeway, WSP facilitated a mass gathering in violation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the suit, Lee seeks a court injunction against WSP to prevent the agency from duplicating any similar action in the future.

According to an email complaint from WSP Captain Jason Linn to WSP Chief John Batiste, the day before the gathering, WSP’s involvement with the mass gathering would involve closing Interstate 5 if needed for the gathering. The complaint also alleges that the day before the mass gathering, WSP circulated a 15-page action plan entitled “Interstate 5 Protest Closure Action Plan.’’

Interstate 5 Protest Closure Action Plan. Click to view PDF.
Interstate 5 Protest Closure Action Plan. Click to view PDF.

“It is simply shocking that the WSP thinks it has the authority to actively and openly facilitate any violation of an emergency proclamation and state law, let alone a mass violation,” Lee said in an email release. “No matter how noble the cause of any gathering may be, it is simply not up to the WSP to recklessly put the public health of the community at risk by actively facilitating a mass gathering in violation of State law.”

Facilitation of gatherings by the WSP, in violation of Gov. Inslee’s Proclamation 20.25 through 20-25.7, would cause real and lasting harm to the community as it may spread COVID-19, Lee said. The attorney also pointed out that the alleged offense could be considered a criminal violation by way of RCW 43.06.220. 

On the day of the protest, hundreds of people moved south from Esther Short Park in Vancouver onto the southbound side of the interstate by way of the Washington Street on-ramp. The crowd was accompanied by three civilian vehicles behind as a barricade. WSP and WSDOT closed the freeway with signage and patrol vehicles north of the location.   

Lee was recently involved in the case against a Battle Ground business owner who opened in defiance of the local and statewide restrictions, as the defendant’s legal counsel.  

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