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Palestine solidarity activists shut down Sea-Tac Airport road as part of global day of action

Palestine solidarity activists shut down Sea-Tac Airport road as part of global day of action
Palestine solidarity protesters blockade the arrivals and departures road at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, April 15. Photo courtesy of A15 Seattle

On April 15 at about 2:30 p.m., protesters blocked the road leading to arrivals and departures at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as part of an international day of action in support of Palestine. Dubbed the “A15 economic blockade for Palestine,” activists in more than 50 cities from Australia to the United States. blocked bridges, halted traffic and took other forms of direct action to — at least temporarily — disrupt the flow of commerce.

Activists held off traffic at Sea-Tac Airport for about three hours, blockading with vehicles, waving Palestinian flags and holding up a banner emblazoned with the text “your tax dollars are funding genocide.” Some chained their arms together with a PVC lock box, a common tactic for civil disobedience which makes it harder to remove demonstrators. Police were called to break up the protest, arresting 46 protesters and towing away eight vehicles. At about 5:30 p.m. traffic resumed along the road. According to KOMO News, 139 flights were delayed Monday night. 

Thousands of people participated in the global protests, which were seen as a significant success, drawing attention both on social media and the mainstream press. It is unknown how much of a financial impact the actions had, but it is possible it cost airlines millions of dollars just in Seattle alone. Unlike some other protests, the A15 actions were not organized by an established group but instead coordinated through an autonomous network. Seattle-based organizers said they started the action in response to U.S. support for Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza.

“As Israel’s military campaign against Palestinian’s reaches 6 months of atrocities, with death tolls surpassing 30,000 and 1 million more facing disease and starvation, Seattle activists have heeded a global call to block major economic hubs in an effort to slow the flow of resources that is funding Israel’s war crimes,” wrote A15 Seattle in a statement. “The April 15 global call implored organizers to take direct action, as symbolic demonstrations have failed to shake President Biden's support for Israel’s genocidal activity.”

In addition to having a direct economic impact, activists also chose to target Sea-Tac Airport because of aerospace manufacturer Boeing’s provision of weapons to the Israeli military and Alaska Airlines’ partnership with EL AL, Israel’s flag carrier. The protest might also be timed to coincide with the IRS’s tax deadline of April 15.

This week also saw a number of other protests in support of Palestine, including a rally outside the UW Link station, a protest in South Lake Union against Google’s Project Nimbus and a demonstration outside the Seattle federal building calling for U.S. taxpayer dollars to be diverted away from the military.

While activists declared the Sea-Tac Airport protest a success, it did not go ahead without risks. A source familiar with Seattle Palestine solidarity organizing said that at least one protester reported a dislocated shoulder due to a police officer removing their arm from a PVC lock box. Many of the 46 protesters who were arrested were held overnight at one of King County’s detention facilities. All the activists have bailed out as of Wednesday morning.

There was also damage done to protester’s vehicles. A KOMO News video shows a cop breaking the driver’s window of a red SUV that was used to block the road. At least one other car also reportedly had its windows smashed. 

Footage from KOMO News republished with permission

This could be part of a wider pattern of property destruction by cops against activists’ cars. In February, a mini van that was part of a “car brigade” had its tires punctured by a Seattle police officer during a demonstration outside of the World Trade Center Seattle.

Despite the risks associated with direct action, the April 15 protests show community members are increasingly willing to put their bodies on the line if it means it could help halt the war on Gaza.