New emails obtained by an attorney in Vancouver, Washington reveal that Governor Jay Inslee violated his own COVID-19 orders when he closed a portion of I-5 in June to allow Black Lives Matter protesters to congregate.
On June 19th, hundreds of Black Lives Matters protesters gathered in Vancouver, Washington and marched along a stretch of Interstate 5.
A portion of the highway had been closed off by Washington State Patrol and the Department of Transportation in order to allow the protesters to march safely.
Emails obtained via a public records request reveal that the order to close the highway – allowing for hundreds to gather together while Washington state was under “stay home, stay safe” orders – came directly from the governor’s office.
“The freeway/bridge is being given to them by order of the Governor,” reads a portion of an email dated June 18th, “and WSP has been told to divert traffic from I-5 onto SR-500.”
On June 19th, a Washington State Trooper reported via email that someone had complained about the protest. The trooper told the man that “we were under the order of the Governor.”
The Post Millennial’s Ari Hoffman broke the story yesterday. You can read his article for more details and pictures of the emails by clicking here.
These emails were released by Vancouver, Washington-based criminal defense and civil rights attorney, D. Angus Lee. Lee has filed a lawsuit against the Washington State Patrol for violating the Governor’s COVID-19 orders in their closure of I-5 on June 19th.
“We believe that 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,” Lee stated.
Lee has also targeted Inslee for his clear bias during COVID-19 shutdowns and has called his lockdown plans “unconstitutional”:
“…it is abundantly clear that Governor Inslee believes that the First Amendment right to assemble only applies to protests he supports, and not prayer or religious worship. He is wrong legally, ethically, and morally. Governor Inslee has locked down Clark County, and many other counties, in phase 2 of Inslee’s unconstitutional lockdown plan. He claims to be doing this because of the number of COVID infections in Clark County, but he is the one who closed the freeway and an interstate bridge to help make that massive gathering happen. He simply does not care about the impact his orders are having on local churches, small businesses, and families.”
Inslee’s treatment of various groups, gatherings, and protests in the midst of his COVID-19 response have been contradictory. In response to a Back to Work rally in Olympia, Inslee emphasized the importance of mitigating the spread of the virus: “I support free speech. But crowd counts or speeches won’t determine our course. This isn’t about politics. It can only be about doing what is best for the health of all Washingtonians.”
Compare that to how Inslee has responded to Black Lives Matter and other racial justice protests:
“I fully support the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. I applaud every Washingtonian standing for what they believe in, but we must do so in a way that allows space for these important and necessary discussions, not in a way that inspires fear.”
These emails only serve as more proof that the Washington State governor has been unfair and unjust in his handling of COVID-19 shutdowns and First Amendment rights.