Protesters block Olympia streets to support victims of fatal police encounters

More than 100 people marched throughout downtown Olympia and blocked traffic at multiple intersections Friday evening to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

The crowd assembled at Percival Landing around 4 p.m., then carried signs up Capitol Way and chanted anti-police slogans. Upon arriving at 14th Avenue, the protesters blocked traffic in all directions before holding a moment of silence in honor of Brown.

The protesters then moved to the roundabout at 14th Avenue and Jefferson Street, where they continued to block motorists who had just exited Interstate 5. Although the crowd received a few honks of approval, several drivers were furious and shouted at the protesters to let them pass.

As one masked protester told The Olympian, “We shut the freeway down without having to get on it.”

A few aggressive drivers threatened to plow through the human barriers, but protesters would quickly surround the vehicles. At the intersection of Union Avenue and Plum Street, two protesters sat on the ground in front of a minivan that had attempted to push people out of the way with its front bumper; the van’s occupants pleaded for the protesters to move.

Olympia resident Jaiden Grayson helped direct the marchers between intersections as they chanted slogans such as “Black lives matter,” “Shut it down” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”

Also while marching, many participants held up their hands in “don’t shoot” gestures that have come to symbolize the August shooting of Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson. The shooting and subsequent dismissal of criminal charges for Wilson have sparked protests nationwide — including the St. Louis suburb where the shooting took place.

Grayson and organizers hoped the protest would call attention to what some say is a defective justice system in the U.S.

“This isn’t an issue of black or white,” Grayson told The Olympian. “This is an issue for all people.”

In addition to Brown, the protesters showed support for other African Americans killed during confrontations with police, including Eric Garner, a New York man who died after an officer put him in a chokehold, and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy from Cleveland who was carrying a pellet gun when an officer shot and killed him.

Olympia police officers followed the protesters through downtown and stood at the sidelines to keep the peace. No arrests were reported. After marching down Fourth Avenue, the protest ended where it had started nearly three hours earlier.

Olympia resident Jeremy Bates was frustrated that the protesters were blocking him at Fourth Avenue and Water Street.

“I can’t go back to work until they break it up, which means I’m probably going to be here all night,” Bates said shortly before the protest disbanded. “This isn’t going to solve anything.”