D.C. police arrested at least 26 climate protesters who used a sailboat, vans, cars, ladders and sit-ins Monday morning to block key intersections for hours around the District. U.S. Capitol police arrested six at Washington and Independence avenues for “unlawful demonstration activities.”
Most road closures were cleared by police shortly after 11 a.m., when the protests began to wind down.
Earlier, at 12th and Independence Avenue, protesters used a large pink-and-yellow sailboat to close the road during the morning rush hour.
There was no official count of protesters, but organizers claimed in an email “as many as” 2,000 protesters took part and disrupted a total of 22 intersections across the city.
Authorities began cutting the metal the protesters had used to bind themselves to the sailboat around 8:30 a.m. They covered protesters in blankets and put headphones on them for protection. The protesters were freed by 10 a.m., and the boat was towed away after.
Boat update: The sit-in at K and 16th is over. None of the protesters cut loose were arrested. Police are about to tow this thing out.
Newsham said those arrested by D.C. police will be charged with blocking an intersection and, so far, that’s as serious as the charges get.
Protesters arrested at the Black Lives Matter/Health care blockade and the students arrested with the college student block were released around 12:30 p.m.
There are no reports of injuries, and protesters didn’t cause any significant damage.
Most drivers in the area saw some kind of delay, however.
“If you’re coming in anywhere near the National Mall, you’re going to be impacted by this,” NBC Washington’s Adam Tuss told WTOP in the morning hours.
Drivers heading into D.C. from Virginia were hit the hardest.
Shut Down D.C. aimed to block “key infrastructure to stop business-as-usual, bringing the whole city to a gridlocked standstill,” organizers said on its website. That included over a dozen intersections in the District “where corporate and government power holders who are blocking serious action on climate are located,” they said.
A news release from the Coalition to Shut Down D.C. listed meeting spots for different groups organizing the protest in all four quadrants of D.C. Protesters started gathering just before 7 a.m. at four key locations: in Northwest at Farragut Square; at Columbus Circle in Southwest; at Hancock Park/L’Enfant Metro station; and at Folger Park.
Community Advisory Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green told WTOP’s Melissa Howell that he felt it was important for someone east of the river to come to the protest.
“I live in far Northeast; that’s where I grew up … near the Pepco Plant, which was decommissioned in 2012,” he said. “We were always told by our grandparents that, ‘The reason you have asthma is because of where we live.'”
He added that one of the reasons communities like his have certain health conditions is due to the prevalence of lead in the housing there.
Black Lives Matter lead organizer Makia Green echoed those sentiments and emphasized action.
“The theme of today is, how would you act if your house was on fire?” she said. “Would you sit here and start talking and arguing about tactics, or would you start moving?”
“This is an actual emergency right now, and if we don’t start investing in health today, we are not going to be in any place to combat climate disaster in the future.”
“We’re here to disrupt business as usual,” Russell Gray, with the activist group Extinction Rebellion, told The Associated Press. “We feel that’s our only recourse.”
He said his group was OK with upsetting people “as long as they’re thinking about climate change.”
George Davidson was one of the protesters cut free from the boat used to block an intersection near the National Mall. He received a cheer and a series of high-fives from his fellow protesters.
“I’m glad to be doing this,” said Davidson, who just graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in environmental policy. “If I have kids, I want to be able to look them in the eye and tell them I did everything I could.”
WTOP’s Teta Alim, Melissa Howell and Alejandro Alvarez contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.
William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.